2 Steps to Create awesome photos in monochrome style
Steve asked this question (ask your Gimp related question here.):
first, thanks for your awesome tutorials that showed me the power of layer masks, they really helped me!
I was experimenting with black and white photos and I wondered how to create an awesome black and white photo from a colored original.
Just desaturating it, in most cases, does not give an satisfying result, the photo just appears “gray” to me. What I want, is a sharp photo full of contrast, but on the other hand it should stay realistic.
Do you know how I reach such an effect best?
Thanks for your help, Steve
hey Steve, I went ahead and broke this down into a list of things to do. This method will go over the exact process that I make to create black and white images like these:
Psst…Do you like these photos? This guy taught me what I know.
1.) Shoot in Raw
For me, this is probably the most important on the list. You don’t have to shoot in raw, but you also don’t have to eat a hotdog with a bun, now do you? It’s just better that way. The same goes with taking awesome black and white photos. If you don’t already have a raw shooting camera, here is a list of affordable ones that I recommend.
If you don’t know what RAW is, I actually just a different photo format that has a lot more information than a jpg does. Due to this, you can adjust the exposure of your image a lot more than you can in Gimp. Gimp doesn’t open Raw-formatted photos, but there are free and open-source programs that you can use in conjunction with Gimp, such as UFRaw and Rawtherapee. For a bit more detailed information on the benefits of shooting in raw, I have previously written a related blog post on the topic. Also, I previously answered a question on why use both UFRaw and Gimp?
Here are a few related lessons on how I make use of shooting in RAW:
Once you find the software that is best for you and you start digging into it, you will always find that there is an option to make an image black and white, but you’ll notice that you can still adjust the image’s exposure just like it is in color. What does this mean? It means that even though your image is displaying as black and white, you still have all of the color information in your photo. All of this information can still be manipulated as-if it were a color image. In other words, if you take a photo with a blue sky and green grass, you can adjust the levels of the green in the image to make parts of the green grass lighter in your black and white image. I know this sounds somewhat strange, but try playing around with it a bit, and you’ll find that this method gives you control that you never before had.
2.) Master Exposure Blending
Above, I linked a tutorial called “Practical HDR Using Gimp,” which is a fantastic example of what I mean here. In essence, exposure blending is a method of photo editing in which you take a single image, and you combine several versions of it to create a best-case scenario photo. It’s sort-of like what is done with HDR, but instead of automatically relying on a program to do all the work, we are manually picking what parts we want lighter and what parts we do not. For example, the examples above both use two duplicates of their respective images to create the final image. For now, let’s look at the bottom-most image. First, I tweaked the image the best I could in Rawtherapee (my preferred Raw photo editor) and then exported into Gimp as a layer. I ended up with this:
Once I had that image, I realized that her eyes and the further side of her face were too dark for my liking. Instead of simply editing her face directly in Gimp, I went ahead and exported a much ligher second copy of the image from Rawtherapee. This time around, I wasn’t focused on how everything else looked, I was only concerned about how her eyes and darker parts of her face looked, as shown below:
This was then inserted into Gimp as a second layer, with which I was able to use layer masks to tell Gimp what parts of the photo I wanted to be brighter, and what parts I wanted to be darker. After a little bit of blemish removal using Gimp, I had my final image.
As you can see, this is a simple method that can give you a lot of extra power in your photo editing. If you add the fact that Rawtherapee can also edit how bright specific channels are even if the image is black and white, you find that you have far more control over your black and white images than you would ever have if you used nothing but Gimp. I hope this helps!