Black and White Photo or Not? Give It a Try on That Difficult Image
This image is of the beautiful cut glass display at the Lightner Museum located in the old Alcazar Hotel in St. Augustine. As you can see it is a very nice collection and I wanted to find out if the color in the image was distracting from actually seeing the ornate cut glass. See the black and white conversion by hovering over the color image. As I discovered, this image turned out to be a difficult choice to process no matter which effect you want.
The top image was processed using the NIK Color Efex Pro 4 (CEP4) plug-in on a Smart Object layer (right click image and select “Convert to a Smart Object” since CEP4 will keep your settings and control points in case you want to adjust the results later) and stacking several filters including from top to bottom: Tonal Contrast, Darker/Lighten Center, Vignette, Glamour Glow, and Pro Contrast. Various control points were added to selectively choose areas for some of these effects. In Photoshop the cut glass edges were selectively sharpened using the Sharpen Tool on it own layer, and a final Curves Adjustment layer was added to get the correct contrast. Overall, this image is attractive since the blue-green sets off the glassware nicely.
Since there are some bright colors in the background that might be distracting from the main focus point, and the museum walls and columns have what I consider to be a rather bland creamy color to it, a black and white conversion might be appropriate to tone down some of the distraction and get rid of the creamy tones.
Black and White Version
I duplicated the cleaned up image layer and turned it into a Smart Object as above. Once in the NIK silver Efex Pro 2 (SEP2} plug-in, from the side preset panel the o14 Grad ND (EV -2) preset was selected and it really made the glass pop out clearly. In Photoshop the Sharpen Tool was used to bring out some of the glass edges (again, do this on a New Layer above the image) and the opacity of this layer is reduced so artifacts are not viewed. A final Adjustment Curve is added to give just the right amount of contrast. The items on the back wall initially appear to be more distracting than in the color image but the creamy tones did convert to the white tones nicely.
The image may not work as a black and white and the only way to figure this out is to try it. In this case SEP2 was used to convert the image to black and white, but the conversion can be done in lots of ways – in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom using a preset, or in Photoshop using a Black and White Adjustment Layer or Channels, as just a couple examples. NIK’s SEP2 is an excellent way to find out quickly since the presets allow you to glance over many black and white variations – if the image is really not going to look good as a black and white, you will know it.!
I am on the fence about which version I like best. The image was not the best choice to process to begin with and the glass creates a huge challenge just to get enough contrast to make the it stand out. Still it was good practice and I like the picture because I liked the cut glass collection. Just remember sometimes the image you want to process is not that great and does not work – but at least try a couple different effects including black and white and maybe there is a good shot hidden in there!…..Digital Lady Syd