Last week I was on my way out the door to meet a friend for dinner, and I stumbled on a website while doing a search for another website to send to a photographer in an email I was composing to her about digital editing. It was so engrossing I ended up being late for dinner (and fell on the pavement on my way out in a rush- more on that later).
The ‘accidentally stumbled upon’ site had a tutorial about editing black and white images, something all digital photographers know can be challenging.
This tutorial wasn’t about how to convert a color image to a fancy black and white in one step, or create a processing action, or use filters or anything like that. It was about how to take your b/w images from good to “awesome!” using the very strange (and counterintuitive) process of selectively applying the saturate sponge to your image.
Example below of Duke:
File converted to grayscale:
File after receiving the ‘magic treatment’
Let me explain. This so easy to do you won’t believe it.
Here is what you do:
- Open your original, unedited image in photoshop (any version)
- Duplicate your background layer
- Convert the layer to grayscale using image-mode-grayscale
- When it asks you if you want to discard the color information, click yes. (be sure to save this new file as a copy!)
- Go to your sponge tool (it’s with the dodge and burn tools)
- Select a fairly large soft brush (350-500 pixels) in the preferences bar at the top
- Select ‘saturate’ from the drop-down ‘mode’ menu
- For ‘flow’ select somewhere between 40-60% depending on how dark or light your image is (lower percentage for darker images; higher for lighter images). I used 52% for Duke above, which was a fairly overexposed image.
- Start applying the saturate sponge to your image and watch the magic happen.
If this works for you the way it did for me you will be saying “wow……. WOW!” and wondering how in the world it does that. Apparently the process increases the local contrast in an image, in ways I don’t really understand. Note: I didn’t do anything extra to the shot of Duke above- no sharpening or levels or anything else- just exactly the steps listed above.
To read more about this cool trick, check out the forensic photoshop blog post where I found the tutorial.
Also, be sure to do a google search for ‘local contrast’. You can learn a lot about how the brain processes visuals. It’s really fascinating stuff!
LOVE this trick! It even fits in with my TMOL (two minutes or less) editing philosophy. Have fun with it all of you shutterbugs!