Archives For monochrome

Having A Baby I regularly get asked how I achieve the look in my photography.

I start with incredibly flexible, albeit low contrast, monochrome RAW files from my Leica Monochrom. London is saturated with brick, tarmac and concrete, so my post processing will frequently separate foreground objects from the scene. The reason is the structure slider in Silver Efex Pro. Pushing structure in faces and fluid objects works well, but not so for concrete. Example below.


And this brings me to Photoshop. I work in layers and whilst I believe Lightroom will allow me to find the same end result, it’s not easy to ‘stand back’ and appraise the current image of stacked layers and tweak their individual opacities until I’m happy with the composite image.

What now follows, is a layer by layer build up of this image. All processing is achieved in Silver Efex Pro 2, because I’m lazy, and Photoshop CS6. So this is essentially the low contrast image from my camera. In the Adobe Camera Raw dialogue I’ve dialled down the highlights a little and brightened the blacks.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 09.22.27You can click on these images to see a larger version.

I’ll place myself to shoot with the best light I can, but it’s infrequent a ‘moment’ occurs that I can get into position for, if there’s a better position at all. This being the case, I will often have to process subjects specifically to boost their light.

First, for this shot, I’m concerned about getting the sidewalk and building correct. I like to make London’s concrete look cleaner than it usually is. See below.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 09.22.33

I chose a lowish structure filter from the Modern section and increased the soft contrast, boosted contrast whites and decreased structure. You can still see the bubblegum, but the scene is lighter, less cracks and stains.

The guy is not doing well with this filter and this is often the case where filters are great for one portion of the scene, but not elsewhere.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 09.22.37

Again, from SEP2’s Modern section – the first high structure filter I think – I increased the soft contrast a little. I’ve applied a mask to the man. He’s brighter and with a nice texture in his clothes.

I duplicated this layer, adding a mask, for the window panes. I bang up the contrast and structure on any reflective surface. There’s nothing worse than dull lifeless surfaces that should shine and reflect the world. High contrast!

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 09.22.40

Tell me those windows don’t look better?!

Still not happy about his face and arms, so I’m going for even more structure and slight increase in exposure.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 09.22.45

Same filter, higher structure, boosted fine structure and overall brightness a little and a layer mask for his face and arms. This layer is not 100% opacity though. The effect should be subtle and Photoshop allows me to view the compound image and adjust opacities for each and every layer concurrently.

I know some would stop here, but I prefer my photography high contrast and, on a wall, it has greater impact. This means additional contrast layers.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 09.22.48

The guy’s exposure is pretty low compared to the scene, so the first contrast layer is masked for everywhere but him. I use a low contrast Modern filter usually, boosting the whites and softening the shadows. negative structure. Then set the layer’s blend mode to hard light.

He does need contrast and I’d like to focus the viewer on him, so I’ll employ another contrast layer on the entire scene. Using SEP2’s Vintage Pinhole filter, grain off, brightness down and increased soft contrast to change the light in the centre of the scene. Layer blend mode to hard light again.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 09.22.51

This is the effect I was after. Slightly de-emphasising the edges, even whiter walls and a controlled level of contrast on the guy.

Never trusting monitors, I always perform a Image>Adjustments>Levels (Auto) check. It slightly brightened the scene, which I’m happy with. I also sharpen the image in preparation for print.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 09.22.54

Flatten the image and duplicate the image twice. The first additional layer, perform a High Pass filter of 4.0 and set the layer blend mode to overlay and opacity to 20%.

To the second addition layer, perform a High Pass filter of 2.0 and set the layer blend mode to overlay and opacity to 20% again.

And flatten the image. I keep the PSD for print runs, but create a smaller jpeg for the internet.

How this image ended up is not to everyone’s taste, but the take home is that I could process what I wanted and subsequently tweak the opacity of individual effect layers.

Sorry about the whacky histogram; my cat walked over the keyboard and I need to set that back.

Good luck processing!

From London’s Streets

January 14, 2014 — 4 Comments

Taken, yesterday in Shoreditch.


From London’s Streets

December 27, 2013 — Leave a comment

All taken just before the holidays.

Worlds Collide [Explored]

Escaping The Rabbit Hole [Explored]


On Break


Oxford Street

MW-T Pro Mono Workflow sml

Just to let you all know, I will be bringing out a DVD with a series of video tutorials for the conversion of colour images to black and white.

The videos will cover conversion to monochrome with, or without, tools such as Silver Efex Pro 2.

There will be instruction on dealing with conversion of portions of the image using accurate pro level masking.

At least half the instruction will deal with the production of exhibition quality black and white.

Initially, focus will be on working with Photoshop. Shortly after I will release videos for achieving these results in Lightroom.

Example conversion styles below…

Generations [Explored]


Best Friends Forever

Hard Sell On The Vintage Cameras



There may be some teaser videos during October, but stay tuned.


Private Property [Explored May 9, 2013 #246]

Private Property

I spotted the space, the people and the security guard almost at the same time.

My very next thought was about the centre piece in this hidden from the street scene and how they might have engineered the water to flow invisibly to the surface and flow equally over the four edges. So, and now a few seconds have passed, I see the people – some tourists, some office workers – are going about their business and sitting and walking by.

The private security guard is staring at me as I survey the scene. He has decided for me that I should take a photograph.

It is becoming more and more frequent that I get approached by private security, which means that a) there’s a hell of a lot of great london architecture that is privately owned and patrolled and b) why target photographers?

I can understand stopping those of us that turn up with medium and large format cameras on a sturdy tripod. You might not be wrong jumping to the conclusion that this is a commercial effort for said photographer. I got pretty adept at setting up out of sight, running into position, shoot 3 frames and run away!

But as far as this guard knew, I had a little digital camera and was just taking a few snaps.

“You can’t take photographs here. It’s private property.”.

He’s right, I don’t have too many rights here, so I mumble protest and move on. I’d already got the shot.

I’m getting some flak for this image, but I stand by its value as a comment on so many of the architected spaces in central London.

Have a great weekend all

Just. Keep. Walking.
Just. Keep. Walking.

Subject not related to image, by the way. I found this mural near Shoreditch High Street and instantly loved the symmetry and the piece. Just gotta wait for one of those pesky pedestrians to enter the frame. I waited. 2 minutes! Thankfully the first person to walk past I could see had a purposeful stride. Shutter speed a little slow to exacerbate the moment. Framed. Pause. Captured. I’d hoped to get across a little anxiety. Did it work?

I get asked a lot, “Why Photoshop over Lightroom?” and I think my answers over the years have, much like my requirements and experience of these products, evolved.

Lightroom excels with image management and as a workshop for the RAW image. If, like me, you purely use Bridge and Photoshop you’ll be well aware you need to apply a little discipline to organize your own images. As for working with camera RAW files I already did the work for exposure and framing – do you use your feet? 😉 So my time in Adobe’s Camera Raw is fleeting.

When LR first emerged my better half, Suzy of the impressive, embraced Adobe’s offering as an eco system for her photography. In addition to the file management and camera RAW work, there is a comprehensive array of image finishing tools; gradients, brushes for dodging, burning, healing, et cetera.

Suz and I prepare images quite differently. She’s principally a nature and wild life photographer so all the effort is at capture time, some raw manipulation and some sliders and backscatter removal.

I work images in layers, not available to LR. Most of the time, the image above for example, my workflow will result in an image base layer, a filter from Silver Efex Pro 2 and an additional low contrast SEP2 filter set to a layer blend mode of Soft Light.

Where Photoshop excels for me is I can vary the opacity of these layers which, I assure you, can transform the photograph in terms of contrast and depth. I can save the photoshop document and come back later to re work it. Yes, I know there are virtual copies in LR, but I find it easier to manage layers inside a single file. Horses for courses, I think.

I’m going to wrap this up for fear of rambling, but Photoshop clearly spanks Lightroom in terms of accurate manipulation of portions of the image. LR’s brushes and gradients just will not do and it’s all too easy to end up with those rotten halos around objects. I can select an area, refine that selection and create a mask. I doubt portrait photographers will work on hair with Lightroom. They’ll export to Photoshop.

Personally I don’t remove anything from my images, but I will process areas separately. Water and other reflective surfaces require a much higher contrast manipulation than people or buildings. I’ll quite often increase clarity and structure for wood like textures. Trust me, this high contrast high structure work does not go down well with female skin. Accurate mask based layer work also hides areas of transition between the different areas of work; essential when printing.

Of course, it’s entirely possible I get my images to where I want them through sheer dumb luck, but no one tells me I don’t know what I’m doing 😀

If you’re in the UK, enjoy your Monday public holiday!



May 3, 2013 — Leave a comment

Today’s theme is reflection.

Bus Tour


Can you hear me?! [Explored May 3, 2013 #90]

Please do check my new portfolio site at Mobile friendly too!

Have a great weekend y’all … possibly watching too much Hart of Dixie. Ahem.