A black and white photograph is a visual delight weaved in a single spectrum. Every photograph has the potential to be converted into a perfect monochromatic image by playing with the spectrum of Greys.
As Ted Grant said: “When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes, But when you photograph people in black and white you photograph their souls.” Indeed a black and white photograph can be more striking when processed correctly, it instantly grabs the attention of the viewer and takes him to its journey.
There are tons of tutorials available on the internet, and the same kind of result can be achieved by using a different method; there is no formula or set of instructions or combination of filters to get the desired results.
Before getting into Photoshop, you need to decide the focusing element in your photograph, what makes it beautiful in your opinion, is it the eyes or the light filtering the hair, or is it the window or the photo frame. Once that is decided let’s get started!
We will be using the portrait of my friend to show what are the key points in this photograph, and where exactly we would want the viewers to look at.
Now that we have decided the areas we would like to highlight, let’s jump into the process!
Open the image in Adobe Camera Raw, if it’s a RAW image it will directly open in ACR or if its a jpeg then you can simply open the jpeg in ACR by pressing CTRL+Shift+A on windows or Command+Shift+A on Mac.
In ACR, we will decrease highlights to bring back the details of the face and increase the shadow to bring in the details of the darker area (hair). We have to reduce the exposure as well, that we would be recovering while masking.
By clicking on the brush icon, a new screen will open with all the sliders set to default, we have to only increase the exposure and paint the area we would like to recover. Once satisfied with the result, hit ok.
Now, in Photoshop open the black and white adjustment window by clicking Image>Adjustments>Black and White.
Adjust the intensity of color by moving the respective slider left or right, if you are not sure about the color, keeping the adjustment window open click at any part of the photograph you want to know the color of.
Click ok once satisfied with the adjustments.
Now create a duplicate layer by pressing CTRL+J on Windows or Command+J on Mac. Turn the blending option to Multiply, this will make the image even darker.
Now click on the masking icon, and start painting the areas to highlight with brush tool using black color.
If the other area is too dark, adjust the opacity of the layer until satisfied.
Now, we will add a little sharpness to highlight a couple of areas. Create a duplicate layer, and go to Filter>Other>High Pass
Adjust the radius, when you start seeing the outline of the areas. Click ok, do not overdo it.
Change the blending mode to Overlay.
Once done, a very sharp image will be seen. Create a layer mask on the High Pass layer and fill it with black color.
Now, with a soft brush and white color selected, start painting the areas you want to highlight or you want to be sharp.
If you are ok with the result save the image or you can play around with the level.
And here is the side by side comparison.
Go ahead and practice it yourself. You can also watch the complete process:
All the best!