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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hi-Tech Studio: Black-And-White In A Digital World

Get simplicity and complete control with special black-and-white conversion software

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Imagenomic Real Grain
($99) is another plug-in for Photoshop (no Aperture or Lightroom support at this time) that includes a number of options for image conversion, both black-and-white and color. For black-and-white, there are 20 film presets from Fujifilm, Ilford and Kodachrome. One terrific feature in Real Grain is the presets for Split Toning, such as the Silver/Palladium preset. Real Grain gives you control over the curve with separate adjustments for brightness and contrast in the shadows, midtones and highlights, as well as color filter options with hue and density. The grain control is where you’ll find some of the most powerful controls in this plug-in with adjustments for intensity, tonal range, balance and style. You even can set grain size based on film formats and resolution, letting you simulate 35mm and various medium-format sizes and resolutions. As with Silver Efex Pro, you can save your own presets if you have a combination you find yourself using frequently.

While all of the plug-ins work with Photoshop, some are expanding their support to the latest versions of Apple Aperture and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Perhaps the best example of this is Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro ($199).

Alien Skin Exposure 2
Alien Skin Exposure 2
($249) is a simple-to-use plug-in (Photoshop only) for both color and black-and-white film effects, with more than 300 presets to get you started, and often finished with just a couple of mouse clicks. Along with a wealth of pre-sets for different film types from Agfachrome, Ilford, Kodachrome and Fujifilm, you have control over how color channels are mapped, and a simple interface for creating split-tone images. The Tone control can adjust contrast, shadows, midtones and highlights, while the Focus controls sharpening and blurring in your image. Grain can be adjusted to simulate 35mm, medium-format and 4x5 film, with adjustments for grain size, roughness and push processing. Finally, Exposure 2 offers the best set of controls for simulating infrared films with contrast, halation opacity and halation spread. It’s easy to create new presets, and there are a number of presets available for downloading from the Alien Skin website.

Power Retouche Black & White Studio
($63) has the widest range of features that I’ve seen in a black-and-white plug-in (Photoshop only). Presets for Kodachrome, Agfachrome and Ilford will get you started quickly, and from here, you can adjust individual color channels to fine-tune the effect. Along with the film-emulation settings, Black & White Studio gives you a true set of printing darkroom controls, including exposure stops, multigrade, blackpoints, toning and more. A third set of controls for zone processing with masking for up to three zones controls contrast, brightness and balance for each zone. The interface isn’t the most intuitive, but if you’re willing to spend some time with this plug-in, you can do some amazing things.

Imagenomic Real Grain
Tiffen Dfx 2.0
($299) now includes the 55mm plug-in effects. Altogether there are more than 2,000 effects in the package, including color and black-and-white effects. With versions for Photoshop and Aperture, Dfx takes a different approach with the filters. There are several presets for each filter, but at first look, the number of adjustment controls is fewer than the other packages. For example, the Black and White filter has settings for brightness, contrast and gamma. However, if you choose the Special Effects category, you’ll find a Black/White Looks filter that gives you total control over color toning, diffusion and grain. There’s a great deal of power available in the Lab controls, with bleaching, cross-processing, exposure, flash and more. The plug-in also has support for masking, letting you create grad, spot, painted, path and selection masks with varying opacities and blend modes.

These plug-ins all have demo versions available to give you a feel for how they work and will fit into your workflow. Regardless of which you choose, your black-and-white digital images will take on a new level of quality with less effort than before.

Alien Skin
Nik Software
Power Retouche


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