I often wondered how black and white photo’s could come out so defined. Railings of white and black separated so nicely, skies so dark all areas contrasting each other.  I knew it couldn’t be directly out of the camera and it had to be done in post processing, but how?  After many times of futile trying I also figured out there was no way you just pop the photo into Silver Efex Pro make some minor adjustments with there software bring it in to photoshop, a few curves adjustments a little level adjustment and voila out pops the photo you want all nice and neat and good to go.  Someone thump me in the back of the head!  How naive I was.


After extensive research of many articles and tutorials I came to understand that selections are one of the major factors that defines your process.  That nothing comes easy with curves and a few brush strokes.  I realized that every area you want to contrast from the others needs to be micro selected, saved and worked.  No matter how tedious. Even if that meant zooming in to 200 or 400% and selecting every little part and making sure your selections are precise.  This process in some cases may take hours and possibly separated into days.


In the upper example, selections where made of each lamp post, each area of railing micro selected for railing only and no sky, the upper darker portion of the railing selected separately from the whiter portion, the house individually selected and then the trim of the house selected separately also the lower boards of the pier that are white all selected separately from the pier itself.  Sometimes the sky and the water need to be selected separately.  This is time consuming but I have learned that if you take the time in preparation the final vision of the photo you have in mind becomes easier to process and the vision can become reality with well defined lines and contrasts.


Look at the above photo and think of all the selections and how they play into the original image, the vision and then the final product.  Each area selected and processed separately all with the final image in mind.  Now look at the below image of the original/during/final images and you can see how the image took shape  from Camera Raw to coming out of Silver Efex Pro to Final image with defined contrasts.  Defined selections can give you precise control over your image and the vision you have in mind.


I know I didn’t give you a lot of precise information of each area processed with adjustment layers of curves and/or levels.  That is a conversation for another time.


The Shot:

F/11, ISO 100, 162 seconds, 24-105L @105mm, 10 stop ND Filter, Tripod and wireless shutter release



Click on Image to Enlarge




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