Black and White Processing
The Roaches Image
I recently published this black and white image which I shot on a foggy day in The Roaches in Staffordshire.
Personally, it’s one of my favourites from this year and a few people have asked me to explain how the black and white processing was achieved. The following short video will demonstrate what steps I took using Lightroom and Nik Silver Efex Pro. I have also included the transcript of the video below as a few overseas members have commented that it helps them to be able to read about the processing.
Learn More About Nik Silver Efex Pro
Nik Silver Efex Pro is free and still one of the best black and white processing tools available. If you would like to find out how to get the best out of this software I have produced a comprehensive guide, which is available on Amazon.
Video Transcript - Processing The Roaches Image
A little while back I published a You Tube video of a trip I made to the Roaches in Staffordshire. If you haven’t been to the Roaches before, it’s well worth a visit. There’s lots of interesting rock formations but be prepared to share it with climbers. On this occasion, the weather was thick fog and most of the shots were taken in the surrounding forest.
Towards the end of the day, the fog started to lift so that it hung just a little above the height of the rocks. This seemed to give the impression of a heavy sky that was pressing down and gave me the idea for this image.
Since I published this image, it’s become one of my firm favourites for the year. It also seems to have resonated with some of you watching the video as I’ve received a few requests to explain how it was processed. So today, I’m going to share a little more.
The image was captured using a Fuji XT-2 shooting RAW format and is really four images which have been stitched together in Lightroom. Here you can see the individual images in the Library module of Lightroom. I select the first with a mouse click, then holding down the shift key click on the last. I can then right click with the mouse and select the Photo Merge and Panorama.
With the images stitched together I can switch to the Develop module. I select the crop tool and crop the image to size. I don’t like all this space on the right and I also want to use the rule of thirds to position the climber.
Next, we will change the Camera Colour profile in the Camera Calibration tab. Even though I’m converting the image to Black and White, I often find switching the profile has a beneficial effect. The profile I’m going to select is a Provia film simulation. Unless your processing a Fuji RAW file, you won’t have the same camera profiles as me. The default profile is Adobe Standard and is available for all RAW files. If you see the word Embedded here it means your editing an image file rather than a RAW file and the camera profile is already embedded in the image.
Now I can select the sky using the gradient tool so I can darken it. I going to do this using the Exposure and the Dehaze tool. If your using an older version of Lightroom you might not have the Dehaze tool so try Clarity and Contrast. It can sometimes give a good effect but Dehaze is by far the best for creating a moody sky.
Next, I add a new second gradient selection to cover the foreground rocks. This allows me to use the Shadow slider to recover the detail in the rocks which is too dark. If I try to convert this to black and white it will turn to a black mass.
Finally, I’m going to tweak the tones and colours in the Basic panel before switching to edit the image in Lightroom. If I were going to be producing large image for print I would also sharpen the image properly. But as this is such a large image and I’m going to reduce the size so much to prepare it for display on a monitor I ‘m going to leave out the sharpening step.
To open the image in Photoshop I’m going to right click the image with my mouse and select Edit in Photoshop.
Now that I have the image in Photoshop I’m going to use Nik Silver Efex Pro to convert it to Black and White. First I use the Selective Tool to open Silver Efex. This is going to create a new layer and add this to the Layer Window in Photoshop. Once in Silver Efex I checked the presets and found number nineteen Fine Art Process gave me a good base.
Next I moved to set a colour filter, picking the yellow. The effect wasn’t quite strong enough so I increased it. I also though the image needed a stronger Vignette so I selected the Lens Falloff 2 setting. This improved the look of the image but the sky was still too light. To darken it I used the Edge Burn tool. Select the top edge and use this to darken the sky. The image still felt a little too light overall so I used the midtone level in the levels and curves tool to darken it.
I’m now happy with the image so click OK to return to Photoshop.
I hope you found this helpful.
Keep watching for more photography advice and if you have any special requests just email me or leave a comment.