EXERCISE: Colours into Tones 2

The aim in this exercise is to make practical use of channel adjustment to achieve a specific effect.  Choose one of the following targets:

  • A landscape in which you emphasise the depth (aerial perspective) by strengthening the visual effect of haze
  • A portrait in which you lighten the complexion without significantly altering the tone of the rest of the image
  • A picture of a garden in which the green vegetation appears light in tone

In addition to this, for comparison, also prepare the default black-and-white conversion offered by your software; for example, desaturate.  Print the results in pairs (default conversion and your conversion).

Note the results in your learning log.

For this exercise, the aim is to alter individual colour channels in order to make only specific changes to our images.  I struggled to find the right shot for this exercise, probably because I am not sure what I am doing in Photoshop, but below I have had a go.

My image is a landscape scene, taken of a river, with trees and mountains in the distance.  The original image had a slight blue hue to it and it is already slightly hazy; partly due to it being winter when the photo was taken, where the sun was lower in the sky, softening the available light.  In the Camera Raw plug-in I made minor adjustments to the highlights and lowlights, making sure the image was correctly exposed before moving onto the main work for this exercise.

Gunsan River Shutter Speed 1/8000; Aperture F3.5; Focal Length 28mm; ISO 100; Spot Metering; WB Sunny

Gunsan River
Shutter Speed 1/8000; Aperture F3.5; Focal Length 28mm; ISO 100; Spot Metering; WB Sunny

My first task was to convert my image to black and white, which I did using the adjustment application.  The coursework suggested that we de-saturate the image before working on the changes, but after trying this out, I could not get the channel mixer to work, hence my use of the basic conversion (something to learn about in the future).

Gunsan River - Black and White conversion

Gunsan River – Black and White conversion

I really like this conversion, and even though the image has a softer feel to it, the starkness of the trees and their shapes against the clear sky really stand out.  This conversion also highlights the softness already present towards the back of the frame.

I then moved on to the next phase of the exercise, where we are required to strengthen the visual effect of haze.

Gunsan River - Channel alteration applied

Gunsan River – Channel alteration applied

Knowing that the original image already had a blue hue to it, I played around with both the Cyan and Blue channels and increased them by 200 and 100 steps respectively.  This had the desired effect as the trees and mountains in the background became softer and the feeling of depth within the shot increased.

Even though I had achieved my objective, I was not 100% happy with the exposure of the trees midway in the frame, so I made a very slight adjustment to the exposure decreasing it by -0.21 and decreasing the offset by -0.0122, which aligned things better with the original black and white image.  There has been a drawback in doing this, as the foreground has now become quiet dark, producing a slight vignette around the edges of the frame.

As I was not completely happy with the results from this exercise, I decided to try working with a portrait, to see if I could replicate the exercise exactly.

First is the colour image

Baby Portrait Shutter Speed 1/50; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 135mm; ISO 1000; Matrix Metering; AWB

Baby Portrait
Shutter Speed 1/50; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 135mm; ISO 1000; Matrix Metering; AWB

Although not a bright shot, there are quiet a few strong/bright colours contained within the baby’s clothes and the background of the image, as well as an expanse of white (from the window), which I recovered in my Camera RAW plug-in.

As before, I made a straight conversion to black and white using the adjustment application.

Baby Portrait - Black and White conversion

Baby Portrait – Black and White conversion

This conversion has worked well, with the various colours in the frame converting to a nice variety of tones across the image.  As the colours are now muted, the baby is more prominent in the frame, cementing the fact that he is main object of the photograph.

Moving onto the task at hand, I made a very small adjustment to the red colour channel, increasing it by 70 points to 110.

Baby Portrait - Channel alteration applied

Baby Portrait – Channel alteration applied

This experiment has worked much better than the previous task, as the only change to this image is the baby’s complexion, exactly as I wanted it to be.  There are also minor changes in the background tones, but nothing too drastic to warrant further changes to the other colour channels.

I am not sure that I like this photo, as although all blemishes and marks have been eradicated from the shot, the baby’s complexion is a little too white, and not inline with the way he usually looks.  I could tone this change down a little, but for the purpose of this exercise, I have left it as it is to show the full extent of the manipulation in post-processing.


Overall, I am happy with the results of this exercise, especially of the portrait image, which was unexpected, however, I did struggled at first to understand what was required of me.  It would have been nice if the course notes had shown comparisons of what we were trying to achieve, but a little research on my part enabled me to get there in the end.

Having never really looked at the art of black and white photography, it has become apparent, as we have worked through these last few exercises, that black and white photography really is an art and by working with the elements of an image as well as with the colours contained within, we can achieve good black and white images.  The strength of colours can also assist in making things pop, and with the assistance (and knowledge) of post-processing, a completely new genre of photography is available at our fingertips.

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One Response to EXERCISE: Colours into Tones 2

  1. Claire Bowyer says:

    Very interesting read. Well done x.

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