What a Beautiful Thing!

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For the past two weeks I’ve been doing David Nightingale’s online workshop on black-and-white conversion. I learned several ways of creating black-and-white images, something I need to do more. Without color,  portraits and landscapes seem to speak to another part of our brains. Unencumbered by the richness of hue and saturation we see other details, our brains pick up other communications.

David introduced Selective Color and Hue/saturation Adjustment Layers along with the insanely powerful Curve tools. I’d always skipped learning these tools whenever I came across them in other tutorials and books before but using them in B&W conversions I realized how they could be useful when processing color images as well.

This was one photograph that I shot this morning towards the source of light, a west-facing window. I processed two copies, added a Solid Color Adjustment Layer and played with opacities and several Curve Adjustment Layers. I was enthralled! The effects you can create with the slightest change in a slider or curve are nothing short of magical.

Others more expert at the use of photography post-production tools may be laughing at my naiveté. I’m okay with that. The novelty shall wear off as I discover more uses of layers, masking and other subtleties of manipulating pixels but each aha! moment is special. It’s what feeds the passion to explore, invent, and innovate.

With these techniques I can layer several images or differently processed versions of one image then “paint” in which parts I want to show. I can work with just colors, letting them create “shapes” from the area they occupy in the image. Come to think of it, this is the way objects exist outside the mind. They are not separated by lines as in comic book strips. Color creates boundaries and a seamless experience becomes distinguished into artificially disparate objects.

I could also layer in more discernible images e.g. portraits, landscapes or still life, use color in the background or foreground to modify the visual effect and add more of a “story” to the final work. The possibilities seem endless!

The more I learn how else pixels can be modified the more inspired I am to capture more daring photographs. The two – capture and post-production – work hand in hand. And each moment of finding an image that works fills me with wonder at what a miracle, what a beautiful thing is a human, how god-like his capacity for invention and delight!

A Good Image Plus Post-Production


Producing a good photograph results from two learning two crafts: the technicalities of using a camera, lenses, settings, and lighting and the aesthetics of appealing composition, structure, color, and emotionality.

Producing a good image results in turn from learning two crafts: producing a good photograph and learning post-production!

Nowadays, in an age where digital photography has clearly won the field, post-production is almost de rigueur. Just a year ago, professional photographers all chorused their deprecating remarks about using Photoshop to enhance their images. Now more and more of these professional photographers are coming out of the closet: post-production is becoming essential to make their images stand out in the crowd.

No doubt an image is only as good as the photograph taken by the photographers with his camera but post-production has a lot to say about what images finally look like. It’s the details that make or break a good product.

Again no doubt about it I am still on this learning curve, learning the tri-fold craft of creating a technically good photography, learning the aesthetics that goes hand in hand with learning the post-production to create the final image.

To top it all off, the greatest teacher is experience or the time I take to actually do the work. There are manuals and workshops to take, of course, and they are instrumental but nothing takes the place of what one learns simply by doing, and doing is risking. It’s all about trying, failing and learning from both trying and failing, and celebrating when somehow I get it!

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Exploring Black and White Conversions

Converting a color image to black and white offers many more possibilities than I thought possible. Shades and tints can vary and Photoshop offers several ways of achieving effects, including what commonly is called “high contrast” processing that is so popular nowadays  especially among young people conditioned by images in magazines for young fashionistas, both male and female. Here’s an example:

Yielding to contemporary tastes in portrait imaging

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If you can’t beat them, join them. The saying dates me and that’s ok. I’ve been processing my portraits and model pictures with traditional color correction but it seems everyone likes their pictures to look like what glamour and edgy for-young-trendsetter magazines display. Images are not longer for showing people’s “true colors” but for showing them in highly unusual color. Color is taking center stage, not far behind the actual image itself. Frankly I kind of like the new trends. My interest in photography started out as interest in simple shapes and color. When I got into people pictures I found out about white balance and skin tone corrections. Now finally I am coming back to my first love. People looking like Dracula, like the vampires that are popular with young moviegoers and novel readers. Maybe realism is getting to be too much with the plethora of reality TV! So, I’ll keep on exploring “special effects” on Photoshop because they seem to be what clients want and it’s going back to my first loves!