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Author Topic: Black and white conversion before or after sending an image to Photoshop  (Read 4687 times)

MyLifeUncut

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Hi everybody,

please forgive me if this is a _very_ basic question -- but surprisingly it's not easy to come up with a definitive answer by googling or searching forums like this. My question concerns the order of steps in a retouching workflow.

Suppose that I have an image, which I want to convert to black and white and which also needs some retouching in Photoshop. Obviously, I can make the b/w conversion in my RAW converter of choice and send the image to Photoshop as a TIFF afterward or I can do some retouching on the color image and do the b/w conversion later.

Two things seem obvious:
- Doing the conversion at the latest point possible means to not have to start from scratch if I decide to make a color version as well.
- I may retouch differently if the image is already in b/w, which may be beneficial to the final result.

My question is: Is there a general recommendation or "good practice" about the order of steps in your retouching workflow? (I understand that in non-destructive programs like Lightroom this generally doesn't matter but the same is not true for Photoshop and other image processors.)

Thanks for any help! :)

Andreas
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BartvanderWolf

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Re: Black and white conversion before or after sending an image to Photoshop
« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2017, 11:38:58 AM »

Hi everybody,

please forgive me if this is a _very_ basic question -- but surprisingly it's not easy to come up with a definitive answer by googling or searching forums like this. My question concerns the order of steps in a retouching workflow.

Suppose that I have an image, which I want to convert to black and white and which also needs some retouching in Photoshop. Obviously, I can make the b/w conversion in my RAW converter of choice and send the image to Photoshop as a TIFF afterward or I can do some retouching on the color image and do the b/w conversion later.

Two things seem obvious:
- Doing the conversion at the latest point possible means to not have to start from scratch if I decide to make a color version as well.
- I may retouch differently if the image is already in b/w, which may be beneficial to the final result.

My question is: Is there a general recommendation or "good practice" about the order of steps in your retouching workflow? (I understand that in non-destructive programs like Lightroom this generally doesn't matter but the same is not true for Photoshop and other image processors.)

Thanks for any help! :)

Hi Andreas,

May depend on the type of postprocessing you need to do, but in general I'd say that keeping the color channel information can benefit the post-processing. It will e.g. allow to base masks on the color information, and you can also use more powerful methods/plugins for the B/W conversion.

Cheers,
Bart
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Jeffrey Saldinger

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Re: Black and white conversion before or after sending an image to Photoshop
« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2017, 05:49:11 PM »

I think the answer to your question depends on what you envision for the final image.

I open images in color in Ps when I sense I want to develop different parts of the image differently using a number of black and white adjustment layers with different masks and different settings (there may be other adjustment or retouching layers as well, of course).  As Bart points out, making selections based on color (Psís color range tool) can be very useful.

I do the conversion in Lr when I donít feel I need this greater flexibility of Photoshop, but, after doing some work in Lr, I may subsequently open the BW image in Ps for further work.

It has happened that Iíve opened and worked on a Lr-converted BW image in Ps only to later see that I wish I had the color channels to work with.  When that happens, I make a virtual copy in Lr (perhaps even in a different state than the one I first used in Ps), change it back to color, open that copy in Ps, do what I need to with it, and drag those layers or channels over the now-saved psd then close the opened color version without saving it.

There is a possible consideration of file size too (i.e. never leaving Lr to work on a psd) but I never let that determine which approach I take.
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MyLifeUncut

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Re: Black and white conversion before or after sending an image to Photoshop
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2017, 02:30:11 AM »

Thanks for your replies, very helpful. I did not expect there to be a definitive answer, of course -- but generally, it seems to make sense to do the conversion as the last step (which is what I did so far).
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Jeffrey Saldinger

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Re: Black and white conversion before or after sending an image to Photoshop
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2017, 09:01:20 AM »

You're welcome.  Glad you found it helpful.
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Jeffrey
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Smoothjazz

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Re: Black and white conversion before or after sending an image to Photoshop
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2017, 11:58:21 AM »

In the newest 2017 Kelby Photoshop CC book he mentions a few options for B&W conversion, but in the end he mentions his favourite and preferred technique for black and white- which is to convert in Photoshop with Nik Silver Efex Pro. It is a great plug-in, and I prefer it too.
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tom b

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Re: Black and white conversion before or after sending an image to Photoshop
« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2017, 12:54:19 AM »

Thinking about Photoshop B&W conversion.

B&W that is not quite B&W. Duotones, tritones and quadtones, something to consider. A forgotten Photoshop conversion technique.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0JP_5Xj3-o

Also PS Image/Adjustments/Black & White is something to think about.

Cheers,
« Last Edit: November 11, 2017, 01:08:52 AM by tom b »
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patjoja

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Re: Black and white conversion before or after sending an image to Photoshop
« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2018, 01:03:22 AM »

Hi Andreas,

May depend on the type of postprocessing you need to do, but in general I'd say that keeping the color channel information can benefit the post-processing. It will e.g. allow to base masks on the color information, and you can also use more powerful methods/plugins for the B/W conversion.

Cheers,
Bart

I start with an import from camera into Lightroom, then develop the color image in Photoshop and/or DXO Optics Pro, then the image is sent back to Lightroom.  The final color image remains in Lightroom.

Then, for black and white conversion, I take the image back to Photoshop and use Silver Efex Pro 2 to develop the print into my B&W image.  The new B&W image then goes back to Lightroom and resides side by side with the color image.

I find that having a completely processed color image is a very good starting point for the black and white conversion.

Patrick
« Last Edit: January 03, 2018, 01:08:14 AM by patjoja »
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Dave Rosser

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Re: Black and white conversion before or after sending an image to Photoshop
« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2018, 09:23:38 AM »

I start with an import from camera into Lightroom, then develop the color image in Photoshop and/or DXO Optics Pro, then the image is sent back to Lightroom.  The final color image remains in Lightroom.

Then, for black and white conversion, I take the image back to Photoshop and use Silver Efex Pro 2 to develop the print into my B&W image.  The new B&W image then goes back to Lightroom and resides side by side with the color image.

I find that having a completely processed color image is a very good starting point for the black and white conversion.

Patrick
Out of interest why don't you go direct from Lightroom into SilverEfex?

Dave
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john beardsworth

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Re: Black and white conversion before or after sending an image to Photoshop
« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2018, 09:41:07 AM »

Out of interest why don't you go direct from Lightroom into SilverEfex?

One good reason might be to keep the SilverEfex adjustments editable by applying them to a smart object.

langier

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Re: Black and white conversion before or after sending an image to Photoshop
« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2018, 09:43:09 AM »

100% of the time it's open in PS and then 99% of the time, it's convert using Nik Silver Efex.

After training by Ansel A. so many years ago and years in a wet darkroom doing P-J work at the newspaper, landscape, fine-art, etc., it's hard to beat using PS with Nik doing the conversion then maybe some finish work with my "secret sauce" toning using a b&w adjustment layer to tweak the color...

IMO, though the prints are different in look (it's simply an evolution), with the right paper and good profile, the prints are better today than what I could achieve in the darkroom after hours of crafting and I don't smell quite as bad at the end of the day! ;)
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Dave Rosser

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Re: Black and white conversion before or after sending an image to Photoshop
« Reply #11 on: January 03, 2018, 11:40:47 AM »

One good reason might be to keep the SilverEfex adjustments editable by applying them to a smart object.
Thanks, good point.

Dave
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patjoja

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Re: Black and white conversion before or after sending an image to Photoshop
« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2018, 12:54:35 AM »

One good reason might be to keep the SilverEfex adjustments editable by applying them to a smart object.

Smart objects are one reason to use PS for sure.  The other is simply file management.  When going to PS from LR and back, a new file is created and sent back to LR.  I prefer having two separate files in LR, one for color, one for B&W. 

Patrick 
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john beardsworth

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Re: Black and white conversion before or after sending an image to Photoshop
« Reply #13 on: January 04, 2018, 03:47:42 AM »

Smart objects are one reason to use PS for sure.  The other is simply file management.  When going to PS from LR and back, a new file is created and sent back to LR.  I prefer having two separate files in LR, one for color, one for B&W. 

Of course, one gets two files by going LR -> SFX directly, but going to SFX via a PS smart object gives you the flexibility to go back and fine tune your SFX edits. For me that's the big reason to go to LR -> PS -> SFX.

Rob C

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Re: Black and white conversion before or after sending an image to Photoshop
« Reply #14 on: January 04, 2018, 07:56:04 AM »

All I do is get Nikon's software to turn my files into Tiffs, and those go straight to Photoshop. Once there, I make a dupe which I label B/W along with the file number. From there, into Adjustments, and using the supplied route I do the conversion there and then, which also leaves the option of using the different colours to be used as faux "filters"' though in reality, these are seldom of any immense benefit, but now and again they make all the difference.

I see no point in going through all the hassle of first working one's ass off in colour: why? your eyes and mind already know what they want you to do - just do it. Colour, visible in the monitor, is more likely to mislead you as to your ultimate destination than not. Treat it as a distraction and dump it as soon as you can.

Basically, one has to have the courage of one's convictions; if one has none, the it's perhaps the wrong business or hobby in which to spend time. Without certainty there is no future.

How ironic that Photoshop, a tool that offers amazing possibilities, can also become your worst enemy if you over-complicate your life.

GrahamBy

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Re: Black and white conversion before or after sending an image to Photoshop
« Reply #15 on: January 04, 2018, 08:18:45 AM »

I see no point in going through all the hassle of first working one's ass off in colour: why?

The one exception I've found is that it is sometimes helpful to fix the white-balance before doing the conversion. I'm sure the same could be achieved with the "faux filters" but the default is more likely to be close if the colour balance isn't completely wacky (like when you are shooting in the foyer of a theatre lit with a single tungsten flood-light).

Still, it takes a minute or two, so probably doesn't amount to working my donkey off :)
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Paul Roark

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Re: Black and white conversion before or after sending an image to Photoshop
« Reply #16 on: January 04, 2018, 10:39:18 AM »

I typically keep the color layer for a while so that I'll be able to select by color and use different slider settings on different B&W layers when I do an Image>Adjust>B&W.  The ability to use differential filtration for different parts of the image is very valuable.  In fact, even in the film era I experimented with using color film as the capture medium even though B&W printing was the final goal.  However, the color film ended up making very grainy images when "filtered."

I might note that the use of the Image>Adjust>B&W approach to B&W in Photoshop can leave halos that are bad.  One reason to have the color image at the base layer for a while is that taking that color and doing a Split Channels (right click on Channels  window) gives halo-free filtering.

Paul
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patjoja

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Re: Black and white conversion before or after sending an image to Photoshop
« Reply #17 on: January 04, 2018, 11:46:08 AM »


I see no point in going through all the hassle of first working one's ass off in colour: why? your eyes and mind already know what they want you to do - just do it. Colour, visible in the monitor, is more likely to mislead you as to your ultimate destination than not. Treat it as a distraction and dump it as soon as you can.

Basically, one has to have the courage of one's convictions; if one has none, the it's perhaps the wrong business or hobby in which to spend time. Without certainty there is no future.

How ironic that Photoshop, a tool that offers amazing possibilities, can also become your worst enemy if you over-complicate your life.

1) I work in color and b/w both.  Some images look best in color, others in b/w.  When I process first in color I also generally run noise programs, check white balances, pre-sharpen, check and adjust histograms to bring images to preferred dynamic range, etc. 

By doing that I end up with a color image I can use if I so desire, as well as a very good and clean image that will convert to BW if the image lends itself to that.  Not all do.

2) I don't understand your comments regarding having the courage of one's convictions...sounds like a lot of BS in regards to choosing to do color or BW.

3) If your monitors are calibrated the way they should be, you should have perfect confidence working in color or bw on them.  If your monitors are not calibrated correctly, then perhaps you should do it so you can trust them.  I calibrate both my monitors and printers and my photos come out of the printer pretty much matching each other exactly.

Patrick  (I may be a 'newbie' to LL, but I'm not a newbie to photography).
« Last Edit: January 04, 2018, 11:50:12 AM by patjoja »
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Rob C

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Re: Black and white conversion before or after sending an image to Photoshop
« Reply #18 on: January 04, 2018, 01:26:53 PM »

1) I work in color and b/w both.  Some images look best in color, others in b/w.  When I process first in color I also generally run noise programs, check white balances, pre-sharpen, check and adjust histograms to bring images to preferred dynamic range, etc. 

By doing that I end up with a color image I can use if I so desire, as well as a very good and clean image that will convert to BW if the image lends itself to that.  Not all do.

2) I don't understand your comments regarding having the courage of one's convictions...sounds like a lot of BS in regards to choosing to do color or BW.

3) If your monitors are calibrated the way they should be, you should have perfect confidence working in color or bw on them.  If your monitors are not calibrated correctly, then perhaps you should do it so you can trust them.  I calibrate both my monitors and printers and my photos come out of the printer pretty much matching each other exactly.

Patrick  (I may be a 'newbie' to LL, but I'm not a newbie to photography).


I'm on the little iPad, so I can't easily edit bits to keep this short.

However, your point 2: bullshit in your mind, quite possibly - no way I can get inside to know, but the simple point I make is that you should know what you're looking for before you press the tit. Of course you can work in colour and black/white, with digital that's rather expensive to avoid. But the fact remains that simply shooting your subject without a definite point of view is pretty limp.

You are free to disagree  - it makes no difference to me either way, but it may make a difference to your work if you adopt that sequence of thinking before clicking. At the very least, it concentrates the mind and saves a lot of disappointment later on in the process.

Point 3 isn't to do with my points, which are about one's thinking about the image before making the exposure. Frankly, I find it strange that anyone might just shoot without having his picture firmly in his head, pretty much processed to his desires. I hardly think of my snaps as mirrors to reality at all: they are practically always intended to be anything but realistic. If I wanted real, I'd just look, smile and walk on by. Photography takes up too much time just to recreate what's already created.

IMO, of course.

Rob

digitaldog

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Re: Black and white conversion before or after sending an image to Photoshop
« Reply #19 on: January 04, 2018, 01:38:33 PM »

1) I work in color and b/w both.  Some images look best in color, others in b/w.  When I process first in color I also generally run noise programs, check white balances, pre-sharpen, check and adjust histograms to bring images to preferred dynamic range, etc. 

By doing that I end up with a color image I can use if I so desire, as well as a very good and clean image that will convert to BW if the image lends itself to that.  Not all do.

2) I don't understand your comments regarding having the courage of one's convictions...sounds like a lot of BS in regards to choosing to do color or BW.

3) If your monitors are calibrated the way they should be, you should have perfect confidence working in color or bw on them.  If your monitors are not calibrated correctly, then perhaps you should do it so you can trust them.  I calibrate both my monitors and printers and my photos come out of the printer pretty much matching each other exactly.

Patrick  (I may be a 'newbie' to LL, but I'm not a newbie to photography).
1 and 3 sound spot on to my way of working too.
I'd have to address how much if any Photoshop work would be needed and if little or none, I'd do everything from raw to virtual copies or maybe at some point saved as DNGs. Done.
If I had to do a lot of PS work, I'd do it in color, then convert and save a copy.
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