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DPChallenge Forums >> Tips, Tricks, and Q&A >> Techniques Exploration Group: B&W High Contrast
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07/27/2006 03:59:54 PM · #1
This is the opening post for the Techniques Exploration Group as we work on black and white, high contrast photos.

The remaining part of this post is standard information for the opening post of each technique; if you've read this intro once, you can stop reading start working on the technique noted in the thread subject.

The remaining part of this post is standard information for the opening post of each technique; if you've read this intro once, you can stop reading and start working.

Concept
The concept is an informal group exploration of various photographic techniques. See this thread for the details:
//www.dpchallenge.com/forum.php?action=read&FORUM_THREAD_ID=434441.

I try to choose the next technique by avoiding recent challenge topics so people don't get burned out on anything.

It's all about working together to see what we can learn by doing, not just reading the "right way" written by experts, although experts are definitely welcome to chime in and save us some time! :)

If you know someone who seems especially capable at using a technique, please send me a PM so we can invite her to post something about it.

How It'll Work
For each technique, I'll create a thread in the Tips, Tricks, and Q&A area called "Techniques Exploration Group:" followed by the technique (hence this thread's title).

We'll start out with one technique every two weeks and see how it goes. If you're new to this, feel free to try older techniques. None of the threads ever needs to die. Eventually we should have a nice library.

Let's try to stick to advanced editing rules as a guideline on limits to post-processing. If you really want to go crazy on editing, no one's going to cry foul. But this is a photographic exercise, not a Photoshop exercise.

How to Participate
There's no membership list or set of requirements. Just get started.

The one obligation, as it were, is that everyone should make special efforts to comment on technique exploration photos posted by group members. Comments are the key to improvement.

As for challenges, there's no restriction on whether to use your technique exploration shots. Go for it. Just follow the DPC norms and don't post post actual challenge entries or outtakes until a challenge is over.

In your portfolio, create a collection called "Techniques" as follows: go to the bottom of your portfolio page, click "new collection" and enter the name Techniques. As we start each technique, create a new collection within that master collection. You can see how I've set mine up if you're not sure what I mean.

Everyone interested in a technique should go learn everything they can and then post to the thread what you've learned, tips you've picked up, and URLs we should all read.

Then take some shots and post 'em in your collection. It's as important to share your thinking as it is to post your photo. I find that most of what I'm learning is how to think of a shot, how to set it up, how to make editing decisions and then actually edit, etc. The final photo is the result of the learning, or at least an intermediate step, not the beginning.

Therefore, it's very important for you to describe your thoughts, planning, resources you relied on, etc. in the photographer's box for those photos. This serves as a permanent repository for that good background info, both for group members today and anyone who later starts exploring by bouncing around our portfolios. If you post multiple photos in a series, link back and forth among them to make it easy for people to compare. Follow the instructions in this thread:
//www.dpchallenge.com/forum.php?action=read&FORUM_THREAD_ID=264825

You can look at this photo to see an example:
' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/60862/thumb/366266.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/60862/thumb/366266.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

Message edited by author 2006-09-05 00:46:22.
07/27/2006 04:09:56 PM · #2
OK, to kick this off, take a look at this pic:
' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/374/thumb/226758.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/374/thumb/226758.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

A few things make this one of my favorites:
1) The emphasis on shapes. I guess that's what makes it a good B&W shot to begin with.
2) The subject matter, to me, fits well with the overall dark feel. I mean, it's underground!
3) The high contrast hides a lot of distracting detail, while allowing things like the bright rails to lead your eye through the photo.
07/27/2006 04:27:17 PM · #3
Did I read that we have two weeks to work on this?
07/27/2006 04:33:26 PM · #4
Originally posted by cryan:

Did I read that we have two weeks to work on this?

Yep. For this first one (and since I'll be on vacation two weeks from now), we'll go a little longer, through August 13. :)
07/27/2006 05:28:55 PM · #5
So, are we shooting these in B&W or converting them or does it really matter?
07/27/2006 05:42:59 PM · #6
Originally posted by cryingdragon:

So, are we shooting these in B&W or converting them or does it really matter?

With my camera it would have to be a conversion, such as this one, but without the red lips :-)

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07/27/2006 05:50:36 PM · #7
Should the shots be done within a set of post processing rules? or is spot dodging and burning cool(so as to keep some detail while adding the higher contrast)?

Message edited by author 2006-07-27 17:51:14.
07/27/2006 06:29:55 PM · #8
this is one of my favorite techniques to make an image high contrast b&w. It is very simple but I have posted some visuals to help anyways.

' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/58840/thumb/370578.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/58840/thumb/370578.jpg', '/') + 1) . ' Here's the image I started with

I then just used a hue/saturation layer and took the saturation down to -100

' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/58840/thumb/370579.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/58840/thumb/370579.jpg', '/') + 1) . 'Next, open a curves layer and move the main curve like this.

Then crop, resize, sharpen, etc. and get this...

' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/58840/thumb/370581.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/58840/thumb/370581.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

Although this is not a very high quality pic of me, I hope it helps :)

Message edited by author 2006-07-27 18:33:25.
07/27/2006 07:23:05 PM · #9
So this appears to be a processing technique as opposed to a camera technique. Just wondering if there's a way to get a somewhat high contrast photo out of the camera. Anyone know?
07/27/2006 07:26:52 PM · #10
Shoot toward the light
07/27/2006 07:30:54 PM · #11
Originally posted by acrotide:

So this appears to be a processing technique as opposed to a camera technique. Just wondering if there's a way to get a somewhat high contrast photo out of the camera. Anyone know?


Shooting on cloudy days equals low contrast... Shooting during the middle part of a sunny day equals high contrast...

Edited stoopid mistake!

Message edited by author 2006-07-27 20:37:04.
07/27/2006 07:31:44 PM · #12
Originally posted by e301:

Shoot toward the light


When you do that, do you expose for the lightest part or balance the exposure?
07/27/2006 10:07:49 PM · #13
Lessee ... a couple of questions to answer.

Originally posted by cryingdragon:

So, are we shooting these in B&W or converting them or does it really matter?

Doesn't matter. My camera has a B&W setting, so I shoot in that mode to begin with. But it's not really very high contrast.
Read this tutorial by fotomann_forever to learn more interesting ways to convert than simply desaturating.

Originally posted by jaded_youth:


Should the shots be done within a set of post processing rules? or is spot dodging and burning cool(so as to keep some detail while adding the higher contrast)?

Let's try to stick to advanced editing rules as a guideline on limits to post-processing. If you really want to go crazy on editing, no one's going to cry foul. But this is a photographic exercise, not a Photoshop exercise.

I edited the opening post to include that answer. We discussed in the original thread, but I forgot to mention it initially.

So sure, dodge and burn. In fact, I'm just beginning to learn how to do those to create the kind of effect you're talking about. And please help the rest of us by putting up some examples and putting detailed discussion in the photog comments section. :)

That said, Nikonian Ninja, thanks for sharing your steps to convert to a high-contrast B&W.

And thanks to e301 and TooCool for how to create a high-contrast shot in the camera.

I've already learned stuff I didn't know! :)

Message edited by author 2006-07-27 22:08:53.
07/27/2006 10:12:10 PM · #14
Originally posted by Nikonian Ninja:

this is one of my favorite techniques to make an image high contrast b&w. It is very simple but I have posted some visuals to help anyways.

...

Although this is not a very high quality pic of me, I hope it helps :)


It helps a lot!

Could you please put links in the descriptions from one in the series to the next, and maybe number them? And put 'em in a Techniques Group collection? All of that'll make it easier for folks to follow along within your portfolio.

It also occurs to me we should put links to the appropriate techniques group thread from our portfolios.

I know all this linking is a bit of a hassle. But it makes it much easier for people to follow later.
07/27/2006 10:28:53 PM · #15
Not sure if this is exactly high-key, but the background was already blown so I boosted it up more in an attempt. I used fotomann_forever's Channel Mixer method of desat, then adjusted Levels and Curves and Selective Color.

I'll be gone to the Adirondacks for the weekend, but I'll check back on Monday and see what everyone has to say, and will catch up on all I missed.

Happy shooting!

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07/27/2006 11:15:08 PM · #16
Since I'm stuck at home with a nasty cold, I grabbed something I already had and played around with it a bit. Comments are welcome but not necessary. And thanks for this thread - already I'm trying new stuff on old pictures!

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07/28/2006 02:12:22 PM · #17
Originally posted by OdysseyF22:

Not sure if this is exactly high-key, but the background was already blown so I boosted it up more in an attempt. I used fotomann_forever's Channel Mixer method of desat, then adjusted Levels and Curves and Selective Color.

I'll be gone to the Adirondacks for the weekend, but I'll check back on Monday and see what everyone has to say, and will catch up on all I missed.

Happy shooting!

' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/40355/thumb/370668.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/40355/thumb/370668.jpg', '/') + 1) . '


High-key and high-contrast are at opposite ends of the processing spectrum. High-contrast in B/W typically means mostly black and white with few, or no, intermediate grays. It's basically best accomplished in-camera by seeking out contasty lighting and by setting your camera to B/W mode, highest possible contrast, high sharpness. Personally I'd prefer to do it from a RAW shot with PS conversion to HC B/W.

R.
07/28/2006 02:38:52 PM · #18
Just as an illustration of how far it's possible to go, here's my high-contrast, reversed, "On the Beach" entry (may God have mercy on it) followed by the original exposure and a high-contrast B/W version of that.

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Note that the B/w is not basic-editing legal, because I used a sky gradient; if I'd left the sky bright, it would be basic-legal. I'm not saying this is "good" high contrast, but it's extreme :-)

R.

Message edited by author 2006-07-28 14:43:25.
07/28/2006 03:15:22 PM · #19
Stunning, Robert but, as you say, extreme: I love it - seriously.
07/28/2006 03:25:52 PM · #20
While searching around the net for information on high constrast photography, I came across this guy's gallery. His name is Barri Olson and I think these are some great examples of B&W high constrast.
07/28/2006 04:22:36 PM · #21
I think we should not forget to discuss WHY. Anyone care to toss out a few ideas as to WHY we would want a high contrast photo? There are certainly cases where it's good and others where it's bad to do it. Those reasons should be part of the learning process in this objective.


07/28/2006 04:27:18 PM · #22
Originally posted by jmsetzler:

I think we should not forget to discuss WHY. Anyone care to toss out a few ideas as to WHY we would want a high contrast photo? There are certainly cases where it's good and others where it's bad to do it. Those reasons should be part of the learning process in this objective.


i think in most photos, higher contrast is better and more interesting. Anything flat gets boring IMO. I've noticed that using the curves adjustment, even just a little tiny bit, can improve nearly all pictures. Most pictures have at least a little "flatness" straight from the camera it seems.
07/28/2006 04:32:51 PM · #23
But why would we ever go to HIGH contrast? I agree that additional contrast is required out of camera.
07/28/2006 04:41:43 PM · #24
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Here's my attempt.

The reason I picked this shot for this technique was the perspective of the long beam down the center is much more noticeable with the higher key. While it would've been an obvious focal point anyway, the brightness its now attributed gives it even more prominence.

I think the high key also helps mute some uninteresting aspects while highlighting other details. Particularly the grain of the middle beam at the forefront and the also the texture of the pilings attached to the beam.
07/28/2006 05:24:52 PM · #25
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That does bring out the form of the composition. The horizonal band of water at the top intersects perfectly with the long piece of wood to form an iconic image of a cross.
High contrast was used to emphasize the form in this case. But the texture was sacrificed in the processing. That might be because it is displayed on a screen instead of being printed. To me, a picture converts best when it is already seen as a high contrast picture before it is taken so the post processing is only used to refine what was already there. The detail is retained and the picture is still rich in texture.
My favorite photographer, W Eugene Smith often used high contrast to isolate his subjects. He would create a cradle of darkness to simplify the composition and force the viewer to focus on what he wanted them to see. Or he would take a dark picture and bring out the light areas to a radiant level. This method was often used with his industrial pictures. The effect gave the viewer a sense of awe.
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