Post-processing honest-dark-monochrome

Written by Manuel Faessler
Hi folks,
 
as I’ve announced in previous blogs, I want to write this blogpost about how I’ve post-processed the pics for my project honest-dark-monochrome. This will be a post that is a little bit longer as I want to explain every step that is important for me.
To make all the explainations complete, I’ve made a zip-file (230MB) for you to download. It contains a RAW-file shot during the project as well as the PSD-file and the photoshop-action (PS-CC2015) I’ve created for the black-and-white processing. With the following explainations and the files you should be able to fully understand what I did and of course use it for your future pictures (if you want).
 
First I want to give you the links to the blogs that I’ve written about honest-dark-monochrome. I think it makes sense to read them first (If you haven’t already done so ... ;-) ) before you read on here:
 
 
In these blogs you’ll find my ideas/concept for the project as well as all the light set-ups.
 
1. RAW-processing
 
My workflow is a little bit different than that of many other photographers. I do relatively little in the RAW-processing as I prefer doing more in photoshop. I just adjust the lighting of the picture to get a picture where all the important parts are not too bright or dark, or in other words: a picture with not much contrast. Most times I also do the croping and the adjusting of skin-tones in the RAW-processing, but thats it!! And most important: no sharpening at all prior to photoshop!!
 
2. Retouching
 
After the export to photoshop I retouch the (temporary) skin belmishes. I do that only with the healing brush and copy-stamp. In the file which you can download I’ve made an adjustment of the background as I had to crop relatively extreme.
And that is it with retouching!! As you have read in the Intro (I hope you have ... ;-) ) the concept of this project was, to make honest portraits without really retouching the pictures.
 
3. Black-and-white conversion /Look
 
This is the point where I’ve used the action which you can download (zip-file). The first layer (from bottom up) you’ll see is the B/W-conversion itself, which I do with the channel mixer tool most of the time. Depending on the type of skin you can try different channels or combinations of them (make sure you stay at at total of 100% so you don’t change the overall brightness of the picture). For the example that is in the zip-file I’ve used a combination of 85% green and 15% blue (Most of the time, the red channel is best for women, the blue channel for men). When you use the action the Channel mixer is set to 100% green which is a good setting to get started.
 
 
As a second layer I’ve used a gradient map going from grey to black with the layer mode set to „soft light“ to get a dark look. This gradient map darkens the highlights without really changing the darker parts of the image.
 
 
As a third layer I’ve inserted a curve which will stay unchanged for now. I use it only if I have to adjust the brightness of some parts of the pic (e.g. if the hair is too dark, the clothes are to bright, ...), but only after I’ve done all the other adjustments. I really like doing such adjustments with curves, those of you who can’t handle curves or prefer the brightness/contrast-layers, you can use that as well.
After that I’ve made a group with three layers of curves, two with luminance-masks and one with a white mask. I use the first for the bright parts of the image, the second one for the dark parts and the third one for the whole picture. Those three layers are the biggest part of my look.
 
 
You can see my intent with the look in the PSD-file. I wanted to have some highlights, but not to bright. I wanted the shadows to be the dominating part of the picture, but not to be to dark ... and I wanted to have good contrats overall to get the look that I love so much.
 
After that I’ve inserted two dodge&burn layers, one with the layer mode „soft light“, and one with „overlay“. I used the first one to get rid of some „mistakes“ which stem from the B/W-conversion or got somehow stronger with it (e.g. stains because of different skin tones, dark circles around the eyes, etc.) and to boost highlights and shadows to give the face some plasticity.
 
 
I’ve used the second D&B-layer only to boost the look of the eyes which means lighten up the iris a little bit and darken the edges of the iris (gives a nice „sharp“ look) as well as soften the look of the small blood vessels in the eyes. I’ve applied the same principle with the eyelids.
 
 
As the next part of this pic I’ve made a group with three layers of „brightness/contrast“ with luminance-masks as I did with the curves (this isn’t included in the action as I haven’t used that group with most of the pics in this project – but you can easily do this yourself: just make three „brightness/contrast“-layers and drag&drop the masks from the curves-layers with the ALT-key pressed). With this group I’ve selectively adjusted the brightness/contrasts of the pic again.
 
 
After that I’ve added a vignette (which I do with most of my pics), merged all the layers and sharpend the pic for exporting it (I’ll explain my sharpening-method in one of my next blogs).
That’s about it ... If you have some additional questions for my, feel free to ask me. You can just comment here, write me an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or send me a message on facebook. I’ll do my best to answer all your questions.
If you want me to write about a specific topic in the future please let me know. I’ll be happy to write a little post about it.
 
And as allways: if you like this post (or not), please let me know ... spread the word, press „like“, etc. I really appreciate your feedback!!!
 
Cheers,
Manuel

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