Wednesday, May 23, 2007
The Ultimate Black & White
New technology and techniques are giving rise to the ability to create the best black-and-white images ever
Part II: Outputting A Digital Black-And-White Print
Up to now, the primary focus has been converting color images to optimal black-and-white images. At some point, you must actually output the images to print if you want to frame it and hang it on a wall, and to most photographers, the print is everything. Today, making high-quality digital black-and-white prints has become a lot easier and, arguably, a lot better.
This is not to say that image-makers couldn't output digital black-and-white prints in the past. There have been a variety of third-party solutions for outputting digital black-and-white. However, many solutions required the conversion of a color printer to a dedicated Quad-tone black-and-white printer and forced the user to fool the printer into thinking it still had color ink loaded. Other solutions demanded the use of specialty software in order to produce neutral black-and-white prints. Either solution required additional purchases and often entailed dedicated workflows or specific printers. Even with these solutions, there was one rather notable deficiency—Dmax, or the maximum density that was attainable.
Once you've converted an image from color to black-and-white, there are two basic approaches to digital printing. One is to use a color-management solution, entailing profiles and color corrections for black-and-white output. The other way is to use a dedicated black-and-white output method. If you choose the color-management approach, you can combine color in a way that's similar to traditional chemical toning. The other process requires the use of a dedicated system.
To use color management, you must convert the image back to RGB. This will convert your image back to essentially three color channels, all with the same channel information. From there, you can apply adjustments to the image to achieve a color-toned result (Figure 19).
This particular approach uses two adjustment layers: a Hue/Saturation adjustment set to Colorize, and a Color Balance adjustment layer to fine-tune the color tone.
Adding a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer set to Colorize allows you to select a specific hue to apply to your image. Generally, the saturation controls need to be reduced from their default of 25.
In Figure 20, the hue has been set to achieve a warm-toned result, and the saturation has been reduced. To further the effect of a warm-toned sepia print, I use a Color Balance adjustment layer on top of the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.
I use the highlight slider to adjust the lighter colors more toward yellow to replicate the chemical results of bleaching and redeveloping in actual sepia toning in the darkroom (Figure 21).
To replicate the results of combined sepia/selenium toning, the shadows are adjusted to be cooler (Figure 22). To print this out, I let Photoshop handle the color management and set the print driver to No Color Adjustment.