Getting it Right: Black and White


I took this shot early in the morning near Moraine Lake in Banff National Park (Alberta, Canada). When I set out to create a black and white photo, I usually know what I’m looking for… but producing a finished product that matches my plan isn’t always easy. Maybe you’ve used plugins like Nik’s Silver Efex Pro. It’s my favorite option for black and white conversion, but I don’t usually just stick with the presets. Because I know what I want to create, I often start with a preset and then tweak it. And I sometimes use a second preset as well… blending the two in PS afterward. Here’s an example of how I might create a finished image by blending two presets.


I start with one of my favorite presets. This one is the “Overexposed EV+1” preset, with some minor adjustments to enhance the contrast slightly. I hit the OK button when I’m done making adjustments to open it in Photoshop. And then I open my original color photo in Silver Efex again. I’m going to use this conversion for contrast and depth, but I want a slight bluish tone for this foggy shot. Of course, I could continue to adjust the settings in Silver Efex – and I’ve shown how I do that sometimes in another blog post – to get exactly the photo I want, but I want to keep this image as a base layer.


The second time, I choose the Cool Tones 2 preset – but I remove the border and enhance the blue a little more. Then I open that conversion in Photoshop as well. I want the blue tones from the top layer – but the contrast from the lower layer. So, I choose “Color” mode option in the Layers palette. This is a quick and easy way to keep the color from the top layer, while letting the contrast from the lower layer take over.


The next step is a little bit of targeted contrast adjustment. I brighten up the base of the tree just slightly, and darken the foreground without losing contrast there. Then I zoom in to check the details. In this case, I needed to reduce the noise a little bit for a smooth finished shot.

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This is just one example of how I use Photoshop and Silver Efex Pro to produce the results I want.


About Author Varina Patel

There is nothing more remarkable to me than the power of nature. It is both cataclysmic and subtle. Slow and continuous erosion by water and wind can create landscapes every bit as astonishing as those shaped by catastrophic events – and minuscule details can be as breathtaking as grand vistas that stretch from one horizon to the other. Nature is incredibly diverse. Burning desert sands and mossy riverbanks… Brilliant sunbeams and fading alpenglow… Silent snowfall and raging summer storms… Each offers a unique opportunity. I am irresistibly drawn to the challenge of finding my next photograph, and mastering the skills required to capture it effectively.