Workflow for B&W photographs

Explorer ,
Feb 05, 2022 Feb 05, 2022

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I have been taking RAW images of old B&W prints (historical archives)

I include on most occasions an 18% grey card so I have a reference.

 

I take the pictures in RAW, typical sequence is

Import

set White balance (against the 18% grey card)

crop, straighten,

adjust levels

adjust contrast

apply sharpening

 

Is there an optimum tine to switch to B&W ?

 

at what point

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Feb 05, 2022 Feb 05, 2022

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Here is a good primer, old but still useful:

http://www.schewephoto.com/workshop/Art-Black-White-DPP.pdf

If you really want to go hog wild:

https://www.amazon.com/Digital-Print-Preparing-Lightroom-Photoshop/dp/0321908457


Author “Color Management for Photographers" & "Photoshop CC Color Management/pluralsight"

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Feb 05, 2022 Feb 05, 2022

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It's important to realize that the sequence you apply edits in Lightroom does not matter for how the algorithm actually operates. It always does everything in the same order regardless of when you moved a slider in your workflow. It doesn't matter if you first do sharpening, and then B&W or first B&W and then do sharpening. Only thing that might matter is the white balance which you should do before you switch but it actually probably doesn't matter at all whether you do it or not as you apply a B&W profile anyway and you are photographing monochome images. Only times the white balance would matter is when you would like to retain the specific tint of the original print (it's never really precisely grey but always has some kind of tint that can even depend on the density of black in an area) but then of course you do not want to apply a black and white profile.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Feb 06, 2022 Feb 06, 2022

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Just to add to this, especially for faded prints, it may be more successful to post-process in colour mode even if it was a B&W original that you have scanned. There may be better separation of tones achievable. For example if there has been yellowing of the paper substrate of the print but not so much, or differently, to the solids or dyes in the emulsion - then that hue difference constitutes extra and usefully distinguishable picture information, over and above the pure tones. You can thus to some extent selectively enhance the contrast of true photo detail while suppressing the contrast of spurious detail from paper scuffing or whatever.

 

So personally I scan / re-photograph to colour even when the original print was monochrome;

stay with a colour profile rather than a monochrome profile inside LrC;

use the HSL panel to desaturate all colour ranges (I use a preset) so far as the live preview;

play around further with WB, with per-channel Luminance in the HLS panel, as well as other colour controls - plus of course the standard tone-based methods.

 

Interacting with that, another interesting method is to fiddle with the R G and B hue response sliders in the Calibration panel.

 

Regardless whether this was from an original colour photo or from something that started as monochrome - by temporarily bringing the Saturation sliders back up, things may well look very weird - but so what, this is all towards a B&W 'account' that you like when those are all down at zero: IOW, whatever works for the result.  

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Explorer ,
Feb 06, 2022 Feb 06, 2022

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Thank you ...I had been photographing in colour, start processing with white balance, then continue as if colour.

I found some ended up poor 'best ' result, so the. flipped it to B&W and it was fine.


Can you share preset you use, if it's something special

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Feb 08, 2022 Feb 08, 2022

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Very simple, only setting 0 for Saturation of all the HSL hue ranges. That's because I take a particular interest in the specifics of the B&W conversion so don't mind the effort of manually shaping this. Also, at one time (though since improved) desaturating did give the smoother tone gradations so I formed that habit.

 

Otherwise I would most likely use LR's straight B&W mode, with the LR auto suggestion for color mix as a starting point, which is really not bad IMO. But still not using  Adobe Monochrome profile, but remaining in colour for the profile, as previously discussed.

 

There's certainly room for both approaches here!   

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Enthusiast ,
Feb 09, 2022 Feb 09, 2022

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You received some great suggestions here.

I'm scanning some old B&W photos for a project my wife is working on. Here are some additional things to try:

  • I find that processing may introduce an artifical tint which is corrected when switch to B&W.
  • As with a lot of old photos, the focus is not sharp and/or there is motion induced fuzziness. I was please to find the dehaze help correct that.
  • Texture has also helped with the B&W photos I'm scanning.

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Explorer ,
Feb 09, 2022 Feb 09, 2022

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That is what I found you process and it ends up with a brown tint.

Then when you switch to B&W it is corrected - hence I was not sure if changing to B&W should be earlier in processing steps.

On DeHaze ... do you as in applying a DeHaze preset ?

 

Could you explain what you mean by 'Texture has also helped'     I am using Lightroom Classic, not aware of a Texture feature.

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Explorer ,
Feb 09, 2022 Feb 09, 2022

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My LR version is 6.1.4   not aware of any new features in some years

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Enthusiast ,
Feb 09, 2022 Feb 09, 2022

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If you are on LR6.14 I don't believe you will have the DEHAZE and TEXTURE controls I do on LrC 11.1

 

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Explorer ,
Feb 09, 2022 Feb 09, 2022

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Assume then you have a subscription ? ......

I purchased several licenses ... over the years .. but the options ceased at 6.14 

So those who had a purchased license do not get new features.

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Enthusiast ,
Feb 09, 2022 Feb 09, 2022

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I was a long time LR6 user then made the jump to subscription when I saw some videos and articles on the differences between LR6 and LrC. Never looked back.

 

LR6 and previous are dead/unsupported products and at some point in the future, given chanegs in OS and libraries, will likely stop working altogether (my feeling only; I have not seen anything from Adobe on that point).

 

I'd recommend:

  • Look at the different plans. Here's a link to the Canada site (where I am). I have the Photography plan (20GB) and don't use any of the 20GB cloud storage. I use Lightroom Classic (LrC) and Photoshop which are of the plan. With LrC you can ignore the cloud (until you are ready) and just use it like your do LR6.
  • Have a look at the free Lightroom Queen LrC Getting Started Guide

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Feb 09, 2022 Feb 09, 2022

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LR 6 already won't install without hacks on newer operating system versions. That is no surprise as it hasn't been supported for years and many versions of Mac OS X and Windows have come out including massive change to the underlying technologies.  

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Explorer ,
Feb 10, 2022 Feb 10, 2022

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I used LR fir a long tine, and familiar with how it works.   I don't use it often enough to warrant $120 a year.

It's a pity they don't offer a hobby 'subscription'

 

Several guys I knowvswitched to ON1Raw who even provide import tool for LR libraries, as you can still buy a license version.  Others have moved to DaVinci Resolve

 

Maybe when it stops working it will force the issue.

I do like LR .. but not enough to pay monthly.

 

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Explorer ,
Feb 10, 2022 Feb 10, 2022

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Sorry ... it's gone up ... now $156 a year

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Enthusiast ,
Feb 10, 2022 Feb 10, 2022

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I haven't tried ON1RAW but it looks like it is now subscription.

Keep in mind you can pay monthly. So my CA$13 a month is not so hard to take.

Another reason I stay with Adobe (even though I don't like subscription either) is the wealth of on-line information available to learn and get help. I'm retired and personally don't have the wherewithal to a) learn a new library management and post processing product and b) All the time it would take to switch.

 

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LEGEND ,
Feb 09, 2022 Feb 09, 2022

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For B&W, I would export/edit in a third party app for B&W. Specifically NIK Silver Efex (DxO)

 

If I am working with a normal RAW, that is, color in LrC, I would do a minimal LrC post processing. Set Color Profile, set WB, adjust Brightness, adjust Blacks and Whites to get a good B/W point, tweek the tonal curve, then Edit in Silver Efex.

 

In Silver Efex I would pick a film simulation, select a filter if any, and look at the Dark and Light zone, fix where desired.

 

__________________________

If working with a scan of a print or slide, hmmmm. Maybe less in LrC before sending to Silver Efex.

 

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Feb 10, 2022 Feb 10, 2022

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There are two ways to employ Silver Efex (or other similar utility): as a direct external-edit, or by sending to Photoshop as your external edit and then employing the Silver Efex utility inside that (layered) environment.

 

IMO the latter method makes more sense, and permits additional nondestructive options e.g. detailed retouching and compositing, and perhaps selective masking of the Silver Efex conversion, within that context - a unified workflow IOW. This has the side merit of reducing the number of derived versions, and separately saved TIFFs, potentially involved.

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