A comparison of photographs from the same source file but processed differently. For photographs I leave in color, Adobe Lightroom is the primary application I use for processing. On the other hand, for B&W conversions, the primary weapon of choice has been Nik’s Silver EFex Pro and now the recently released Silver EFex Pro 2.
The biggest mistake photographers make in B&W conversion is simply believing all that it takes is a click of the “Black and White” in Lightroom or any other processing application being used. Or maybe even just desaturizing to B&W. While it is entirely possible to convert in Lightroom (or Photoshop, Elements, and Aperture), the level of control cannot be as finely tuned as a dedicated application or plug-in. Also, many dedicated conversion tools use specialized algorithms that allow you to easily achieve the results that you want.
The top photograph looking down the shoreline at Point Reyes National Seashore toward the lighthouse was first processed in Adobe Lightroom and then simply converted to B&W with a click of a button. A few more adjustments were made, but this was the best photograph I could achieve with the skills that I had. Despite pushing the Recovery slider to max and working with both the contrast and tone curve sliders, I couldn’t get the clouds to pop. Even testing out the onOne Perfect Presets volume 1-3 couldn’t generate the pop in the clouds I was looking for.
The second photograph was exported into Silver EFex 2, adjusted, and imported back into Lightroom for final tweaking. The difference in results is vast. While Lightroom has single brightness and contrast sliders, Silver EFex 2 has four (4) sliders each for brightness and contrast.
I know there is a school of thought that processing a photograph excessively, and this may be considered excessive, is sacrilegious. There are even photographers that emphatically state they do not Photoshop their photos because they only want exactly what comes out of their cameras. Great. They should be aware that if they shoot in jpeg format, the processing and image compression is done by the camera based on calculations and algorithms the photographer has no control over. If they are shooting in RAW format, it is likely the computer and application being used is not calibrated to that camera model or manufacturer and tend to come out of the camera a little flat. RAW formats by Canon and Nikon are proprietary and different from each other so there’s not even standardization there! Even selecting a specific white balance setting has an effect on the image. And then you have to remember that photographers such as Ansel Adams processed their photographs in the darkroom by burning and dodging to achieve their vision.
There is not a right or wrong way to process photographs, nor is it right or wrong to process photographs at all or leave them in their “organic” state. Just know that you should have a vision for your photographs and if you choose to process to that vision, there are various methods and techniques to get there.
As for the scene itself, what captures my eye are the clouds obviously, but also the haze at the shoreline caused by the high winds blowing the crashing wave mist onshore.
Previous Point Reyes posts:
- Point Reyes (Boat), Point Reyes (Location), Sunrise Clouds, HDR
- Dock, Point Reyes, Tomales Bay
- Storm Clouds, Surf, Footprints, B&W
EXIF data: Nikon D50, patterned metering mode, 62mm, ISO 200, 1/60 sec, f/11
Point Reyes, Shoreline, Clouds, B&W. Tule Elk Reserve, Point Reyes National Seashore, California. March 27, 2011. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.