Black and White Editing.
I like to keep my Black and White workflow as simple as possible and have refined my systems and processes over the last ten years. I use Lightroom CC and Silver Efex Pro 2 for all my black and white images. I shoot most of the time in RAW but this process is just as effective with Jpegs, you just have less latitude with the Jpeg file. SEP2 is part of the Google Nik Collection and was made free to everyone last year.
My workflow is simple and after a day out shooting I pop my memory card in to my MacBook Pro and copy the images in to Lr CC this is where I view the images and make my selections. I might shoot 40-60 images in a session or more but I normally only end up with 3-5 keepers if that. Once I have made my selections I then open each image in turn in SEP2 for conversion to black and white. After a few small slider movements I import the image back in to Lr for some final editing and then star rating this whole process takes less than 3-6 min per image.
I view each image on my 27” Eizo Monitor, the monitor is calibrated regularly even though this is a black and white process I need to see every tone between the black end of the spectrum and the white end. If you don’t have a calibrated monitor or an old monitor its best to buy a new up to date LED type monitor as these are great out of the box. You can download a test card from the internet to check your screen, if you can’t see every band in the chart you need to calibrate of upgrade your monitor.
I will take you through my very simple workflow from start to finish with this image taken of Glenfinnan Scotland, this is the RAW file out of camera converted to Jpeg.
First I import my images in to Lr and once in Lr I then view all my images and the images I want to keep I give a one * I do this in the Library module. Once I have made my keeper selection I then highlight and delete the rest of the images leaving my keepers and these are all the ones with the one* sometimes at this point I will remove a couple of the one* images if I think the others are stronger. At times, I have deleted the whole lot.
Once selected I will then import the first keeper in to SEP2 this is a simple right click open in SEP2.
Once the image opens in SEP2, I do not touch the left-hand side of the program as this is mostly pre-sets and there is no point in opening a pre-set because I will then have to spend the next 10-20 min trying to get the image back to the way I want it from the pre-set. I only ever use the sliders and the controls on the right-hand side of SEP2 and only use the main sliders and not open them up for fine control. The main sliders I use are Brightness Contrast and Structure and I make changes by eye to every single image I open. I start at the top and work down the sliders. I normally brighten most images by about 20% then contrast about 20% and then apply quite a lot of Structure to make the images pop about 60% but this is all by eye and not an exact science. On the Glenfinnan, I am going to go Brightness 22 Contrast 22 and Structure 66.
If I need to just make controlled adjustments I use the control points so as not to cause over processing of artefacts in the complete image. This is mainly with people’s faces or complicated backgrounds with out of focus areas. I don’t need to do that in this image, I am happy with the way the image looks so I then import the image back in to Lr.
Once in Lr I switch to the development module.
I again start at the top right of the sliders and work my way down sometimes a few tweaks and at others hardly anything at all, therefore I don’t use pre-sets in Lr as I would spend most of my time correcting the changes the pre-sets make.
I always keep an eye on the Histogram for clipped highlights as these look harsh in digital images and even worse printed. I ignore the clipped blacks as these looks great when printed and I do like quite dark blacks in my images.
The first thing I do to this image in Lr is add a graduated filter to the sky and use the exposure control to darken the Sky by one stop. I then use the shadows slider to just pull back the shadows from the mountains. I then make a second graduated selection and darken the top of the sky to about half a stop.
I then work my way down the sliders Contrast +24 Shadows +18 Blacks -31 Clarity +31 and finish off with a post-crop Vignette of about -7 I would also use the adjustment brush to lighten the snow areas and darken any areas using the exposure slider. This is about the same way you would dodge and burn in the Dark Room. This is all to personal taste, I prefer my whites to be white in an image so do tend to burn in the white but without over exposing them.
I would then rate my image for personal use between 3* and 5* if I felt at this stage the image was 2* or 1* I would delete it.
The image looks quite dark in WordPress but looks great printed or on my Eizo, I hope to run a Black and White editing workshop for Fujiholics later in the year so please keep an eye open on the Fujiholics website.
I was planing on bringing you my review on my Gnarbox but due to my heavy editing workload this month and the fact my new G Tec drive has not arrived I am going to have to bring it to you next month.
I am now the only UK member of the Gnarbox Pro Team. I am really happy to be working with Gnarbox as I feel Gnarbox is a perfect fit for my workflow.
I have had a play around with this great product and I am happy to say it’s easy to use and I see some great potential in the Gnarbox for my back up solution in the field.
I don’t normally have much time for editing in the field the most I do is a couple of quick edits for Social media. The fact I can edit RAW files on my phone or iPad with the Gnarbox really does appeal to me. I am getting more and more in to Video and being able to use the Gnarbox to throw some quick edits together for Social media is also great.
It’s not got massive storage but most of the time I don’t need it to back up my Street Photography.
Intel Quad Core, 1.92ghz CPU
128GB or 256GB Solid State
USB 3.0, USB 2.0, SD and Micro SD Ports
4000 mAh 3.7v rechargeable battery
4 Core Intel HD Graphics GPU
2gig of Ram
Duel Band 300mbs 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi
Data Transfer up to 4GB per Minute
iOS & Android Compatible
Battery Life 4-6 Hours
Water Shock and Dust Resistant
5.3″ x 4.3″x1″ / 1lb
I hope to bring you a review over the next few weeks.
These are the 5 tips from my latest YouTube channel 5 TOP TIPS
Tip Number 1
Buy and use a rangefinder camera like the X100F or the XPro2 just depends if you want a interchangeable lens camera or not. I love my X100F for ease of use and portability. But the XPro2 with the 16mm lens makes for an amazing combo.
Tip no 2
Make sure you go out with an idea or a theme ! It could be as simple as Red,Yellow,Blue or you could have so many other reflections, light and shade high, low the list is endless. But don’t just going out without a plan or you will come home disappointed.
Tip No 3
In mixed lighting conditions like we have in the UK unless you are trying to be creative shoot on Auto ISO as its just one less thing to worry about. I set mine in the Menu to Auto Iso 1 Base 200 Max 6400 Shutter speed 250 Sec.
Tip No 4
Move the focus point from the middle of the frame to the upper third when you are shooting people up close as this will put the focus point over their face and not in the middle of the frame and if you are shooting wide open this will give you a better chance of getting the head and face sharp.
Remember the 5 golden rules of a great Street Image Light / Composition / Moment / Great Subject and Emotional Impact.
I guess I have fallen in love with this camera, it blows me away every time I use it and to think I left it so long before I invested ! I have always secretly wanted to get a medium format camera but I never really had the need for it or a business case to buy it, as I said in my previous post about the GFX I just decided to buy it as an early retirement present to myself, not that photographers ever really retire.
I have three projects to shoot with the GFX this year as well as getting back in to Landscape photography and this is the perfect tool for the job.
Three of the projects I am involved with will include really large prints and even though the other X Series cameras are capable of large prints they cant hold the detail as well as a bloody great images sensor in a medium format camera.
One amazing thing about the GFX is the ability to switch it to C Mode once the Lens is set to C and the ISO dial is set to C and the shutter speed dial is set to T the camera is in Command mode and the back and front Command dials act as a DSLRs command diles do and control the Speed and Aperture. Also if you push the front command dial you can then alter the ISO so this puts the Exposure Triangle at your fingertips.
The command mode gives you the control you need to dial in the exposure you require for LE Photography ( Long Exposure ).
The old way was to take and exposure and then calculate the filter factor with the current exposure time to give you the time it would take to make the exposure. Well that all just changed the GFX50s can’t do a timed exposure up to 60 minutes on its own.
Let me explain, you set up the shot focus the lens then set the lens to M to prevent it from re focusing when you press the shutter. Then you simply place the filter you require like the Lee 15 Stop in the holder and adjust the Aperture do the desired depth of field. Then you move the shutter speed all the way until the camera meters for the sceen through the filter. Once you set you then just set the self timer in the Q Menu to 2 seconds to prevent camera shake and make your exposure. You don’t even need a cable release so that’s one thing less to blow around in the wind.
This function alone as made my whole life so much easier and considering the GFX is about the same size as a D800 and my Landscape kit now consists of one camera and three lenses I am really happy. I use the GF23mm GF32-64mm and the GF110mm and this little lot is quite a light lighter than the Nikon D3s and pro lenses I used to carry and the images from the GFX are outstanding as it the dynamic range.
Right I best get back to wales and see what else this thing can do.
What a year ! Its now December and my Year of Colour project is nearly over and I am glad. Its been a very busy year for me and the project has been dragging along behind me instead of inspiring me to get out and shoot ! I always thought it would be hard but it was a lot harder than I expected. I have never been a fan of colour so I already set myself up for failure before I started.
Colour for me growing up in a black and white world with black and white TVs in the house and all my film cameras loaded with black and white film 99% of the time was never going to be easy. I think after learning to see in black and white colour just does not do it for me. I very nearly gave up on several occasions but I am glad I stuck with it. I think black and white is my escape from the real world, the fantasy land of TV as a child.
The project does not really finish until the 31st of December but I have had some back problems and whilst trying to get that under control I really am not inspired or motivated to get out and create anything remotely interesting.
I wanted to force myself to shoot Colour for a year to see if I could fall in love with it and get some form of continuity in my work and develop a colour style. I soon found out Colour does not work like that, to have continuity you need continuity in lighting every day and that is the hardest part. Its easy to set up in a studio and have the same lights and white balance but out in the real world the light is diferent every day so the only way to get a consistency would be to light the subject the same no matter what the weather conditions or time of day. In bright light the colours pop and we are cooking on gas. When there is no light or poor light we have dull washed out colours and these images require a lot more work. In a very short space of time at the start of the year I got fed up with the issue of continuity.
I did however start to look at and play around with film simulation modes on the Fujifilm cameras and even though you could not quite get the continuity you could get a consistent body of work that looked the same. I also looked in to colour grading as they do when they make films but this started to get very complicated. I am in the process of learning to edit film and thought it would all come in handy and it did. I shoot my video in colour so I guess my year has not been wasted as I am putting some of the things I have learnt about colour to good use in camera for my blogs.
I started out hating colour and to be honest for still images I am still a Black and White lover, in all honesty I prefer black and white films as well. I guess colour is so very distracting that it confuses me. My black and white has a consistency and style that works for me. Black and White is a story telling media and colour sometimes can distract you from the story if you get it wrong or are super critical of the way colour works in a scene. I dont hate colour as much as I did and I have a newfound respect for anyone who can keep their outdoor work consistent in every lighting condition without elaborate lighting set ups. I want to do more exhibitions in the future and this is where I need continuity.
Iso also has a big to play in this situation the higher the ISO the darker the image and the more noise is introduced, this looks fine in black and white and even better when printed but really does darken your colour images down. The other issue with colour is my mood ! In black and white you can see my mood changes in my work and this is shown as you would expect in dark moody images with lots of black. In colour they just look more dull and boring ! Primary colours can also be so very distracting in colour images form the story or from the main subject so this to can be very frustrating.
I used quite a few Fujifilm cameras during my project and have to say that helped me to decide on what cameras to keep and what to sell. With black and white there is always a small difference in how you process between sensor upgrades but with colour this is huge. I soon discovered that as long as you keep to the same sensor across the board when editing then the files are the same across the editing range, but as soon as you work on say and X-T1 file and an X-T2 file they are worlds apart. As you all know I am not a bit fan of editing so I need a simple workflow that does not take up much of my time.
When I did my year of black and white I did change cameras because of the project and the same has happend this time. I sold all my older X Series cameras and updated to the newer versions to keep sensor continuity across the range. So now I have X100F, XPro2, X-T20 as my main X series work horses. I did however buy a second had X70 to stick in my pocket and take everywhere. I also splashed out on the GFX but that’s more for some projects I have in 2018/2019. I also sold quite a few lenses to lighten my load but that was more due to lack of use. I always do regular lightroom searches to see how much use a lens is getting and if its not getting used it’s not earning its keep so needs to go.
Projects help me to make these camera and lens decisions as well as other work I do, because I might use a diferent lens for a project than I do for my street or client work.
The year of colour was not a complete waste of time I did learn a lot and I did have a good play around with film simulation because I did quite a few edits on my ipad and not on my macbook so I found taking a Jpeg in to SnapSeed or Lightroom Mobile was a lot more simple if I had already applied a preset and got it to as close as I would like in camera first. Most of the time it just needed a slight crop or straighten before posting the image. I am not a fan of editing on Tablets and that I think is just down to my eyesight. I prefer 27″ monitors so that I know there is no dust on the sensor or other issues.
I set my X70 on Jpeg and RAW on classic chrome and in 2018 I will change this to Acros and green filter. I use my X70 as an extension of my iphone for blogging etc I know the XE3 is now out and far better but I prefer the screen on the X70 as it’s so much more versatile. Hopefully one day Fujifilm will make an X80.
I think we all see colour in a slightly diferent way and I know I have a few friends who are colourblind. I also think we all like to view other peoples work not just for the subject matter but for the colour style they have. I think in time I could find a colour style that would suit me but I really do just prefer black and white. It’s been an interesting experiment. Its not been as interesting for me as my year of black and white way back in 2013 but I have decided to go back to 90% black and white for 2018 and have a play around with colour when the mood takes me.
I have some new projects in place for 2018 / 2019 and these are all secret projects. One I am doing with a few friends and two by myself but they all work quite well together. Hopefully all the projects will come together as a book and also at least two exhibitions. I normally do a book at the end of every project but this year I don’t feel the images from my year of colour are strong enough for a book so will skip 2017.
I am going to take some time off over December and January to give my back a chance to sort itself out. I have had two quite serious accidents in the past one that broke my back and it appears this is all coming back to haunt me. Taking time off to heal and to put some thought into my projects.
I hope you all have a great Christmas see you all in 2018.
I recently purchased an X70, it’s not the first time I bought one as I got Jane one when they first came out. Jane was lucky enough to see the X70 before it was made, it was just a mock up the first time she saw it and she said when its made whe would like one. So as soon as it launched I got a her one. She is not that in to Photography so has not used it much. She said I could use it, but that feels wrong to use a present. So in the end when John a friend of mine was selling his to buy an XE3 I decided to buy his X70. It was in as new condition with a few extras for just £325.
I hear he loves his XE3 so its a win win as I really love the X70 its one of the best cameras fujifilm have ever made.
I am not a JPEG shooter but wanted a simple put in my pocket carry everywhere camera that I could change up on the move or even just plug in to my powerbank. I was not fussed about a viewfinder as with the nice wide 18.5mm lens I could just point and shoot. The tilt screen is very good as it tilts in a totally diferent way to the X-T2 and X-T10 so it just perfect for the way I shoot. The only downside to the rear screen is you cant put a thumb grip in the hotshoe as the screen tilts from the top.
I have know there are some big fans of the X70 out there and I also know so much was launched at the same time the X70 came out the camera got overlooked. This is a shame as this little camera is stunning. At the time of writing I do not know if there will be an X80 but if there is and it’s anything like the X70 it will be stunning. If Fujifilm just added bluetooth as they have in the XE3 then that would be good enough for me.
I have seen a few for sale over the last few weeks and these are a bargain.
I am just getting into Video and shot a short clip on the X70 with its flip around screen and was quite impressed, not a bad little vlogging camera to be honest with its selfie view screen.
I set the to Jpeg fine and Classic Chrome with dynamic range to Auto Sharpness +1 Highlight Tone -1 Shadow Tone +1 Noise Reduction 0.
I was away in Edinburgh at the weekend and managed to shoot a few quick images with the X70 and the beauty of this little camera came to light from the start. It was in my pocket all weekend and when not in my pocket on the table next to me. For the first time ever I just copied the jpegs to my ipad and edited them in Lightroom Mobile or Snapseed well that was the intention ! In reality I just made a small crop to most of them.
Lets just say me and the X70 are getting along fine and this little camera is going to live in my pocket and go with me everywhere.
What a stunning bit of kit.