Black and White photography requires decent post processing if fine art quality intended. Post processing is a fun part and essence of BW photo.
In film days, photographers did the post process too, selecting paper grade, separated filter exposure for variable contrast paper, burning and dodging
for delicate tonal separation on image. Of course original negative quality is primary factor for good print but skillful post processing can’t be ignored.
In digital days, not much difference in BW photo. Dark room is transferred to light room, in front of computer screen. Adobe software name ‘Lightroom’
makes real sense to reflect this transition, from film to digital & from dark to light post processing steps. One thing I noticed is less and less people
recognize what ‘dark room’ means in these days.
Goal of preset work: ~ 70% automation in maximum
I found many worksteps are repeating when I do Black and White post processing. Preset is the batch work to do those repeating steps in one click.
When started, I thought that I need to create ‘almost perfect’ single preset to apply to as many as possible photos, therefore reduce BW workload
massively. But soon I realized it is not practical. Even though digital camera equiped with sophistcated auto exposure capability, and I usually rely on
auto exposure, each picture has different level of brightness, contrast….many different variables, therefore ‘one fit to all’ preset is not possible
Then I change mindset ‘what if generating many presets to deal with those variances?’ OK, it is possible. Generating many presets to deal with
different situation is not so difficult. But problem is how to select one to fit to specific picture when too many presets lined up. It is going to be another
time consuming tasks.
Need Balance – So, I concluded it is more realistic to make couple of presets which represents some key facts or situations, then photographer use them
as starting point instead of end point of post processing. This way we can avoid too many selections given (almost the same as not given).
I set the target to automate 50% to 70% BW post processing steps with a preset, then contine manual adjustment for individual photo to reach desirable
Key knobs to adjust manually in post processing
1) Exposure – normally determined by camera itself since AE (auto exposure) available. But it is different matter whether photographer like to the tone
what camera tells us. Based on intention from user, it may boosted up to high key, bright and vivid mode or low key, dark and groomy moode.
No camera works to detect and fit photographer’s taste (yet). It just deliver mid-grey (18%) value which is middle grey tone from entire picture’s
grey level. In these prests, exposure set to +0.27, but you’ll need to adjust it for your own photos.
2) Contrast – I use stiff S-curve in this preset (Tri-X series) which boosts contrast.
BW conversion from color often required contrast boost up, so I want to start from a little high side instead of dull grep.
If contrast has to be altered after applying preset, I recommend adjusting ‘contrast slide bar’ instead of S-curve to maintain the same look.
3) Vignetting – Each picture has its own requirement, none to extreme. I made 3 version, NO vignetting, vignetting factor 15 and 30 version.
To use, I recommend you try 0 or 30 to determine whether you want to use vignetting at all or not. Once you decided to use it, then use
vignetting knob inside Lightroom to achieve desired result precisely. Most of case, I ended up 15 or 30, so I made both for convenience.
How to select preset
1) Toning – There are 2 different tone, Neutral Grey (NG) and slight sepia tone which is called Coffee Tone (CT). NG tone delivers cool and sharp
feeling while Coffee tone expresses warm atmosphere.
2) Grain – There are 2 versions, fine grain and coarse grain. I believe the definition of fine or coarse is different per person. Try 2 versions
to determine which one fit more for your picture / taste. Be aware, fine and coarse preset are different not only Nr of grain but also contrast &
other factors to compensate tonal loss caused by grainess.
* Grain: number of pixel – Grain adjusting uses ‘1 grain / X pixels’ equation. Therefore ‘X pixels’ shows different effect in 6M, 12M or 22M
image (this is not file size, image sensor’s pixel number). In here I generated presets to fit into 12M pixel (based Ricoh GXR-M).
I will update 6M (Kodak DSC 560), 24M (Sony A7, A7m2) later.
In quick look, coarse grain is not really coarse for many cases. But exaggerated grain is not fit genera purpose I think. It is certainly
special effect but not all picture improved expression with this strong dose). I try to maintain subtle difference in between coarse and fine
grain. Saying fine grain, not so much different from NO grain, but I try to remove ‘digital look’ from no grain photo with fine grain in only
4) Vignetting – I add vignetting to Coffee Tone presets. Adding to neutral tone is not problem but I assume Portrait usually apply coffee tone,
and Landscape neutral grey without vignetting.
1) Tri-X = Film curve and light sensitivity (in future, Plus-X, Delta-400 etc to be made)
2) port = portrait version, compare to landscape version Sharpen and Clarity are reduced to avoid harshness on skins, plus slight over exposure.
3) NG = neutral grey, CT stands for coffee tone
4) 12m = about 12m pixel (typical 10m – 15m pixel range)
5) coarse = a little gritty, fine = not gritty but different from no grain look
6) vig35 = vignetting 35
Black and White film emulation, Kodak Tri-X
1) Coffee tone, Coarse & fine grain, with vignetting
2) Neutral grey tone, Coarse & fine grain, without vignetting