B&W Conversion Plugins

Discussion in 'Nikon Capture and View NX' started by jgatscher, Jul 30, 2008.

  1. jgatscher

    jgatscher

    19
    Jul 29, 2008
    Nashville
    Great forum here...wish I found this much earlier...

    Anyway, I was wondering if people have discussed which B&W conversion option is the best way to go in NX2??

    I have tried the standard NX options but I find these to be somewhat weak and not as good as I could do using a CS2/CS3 plugin Like Alien Skin Exposure2 or Nik's Silver Efex Pro...so when I really need to output a B&W I have to dump out a TIF and then use CS2's plugins to make the conversion.

    Thanks to this forum, I now have downloaded the new Nik plugin for NX2 (Color Efex Pro 3 trial) and find that it has a B&W filter...I really want to stay in NX2 for my workflow so my general question is what is the best NX2 plugin for handling B&W conversion....maybe Nik has plans to port it's Silver Efex Pro to NX2?

    All comments greatly appreciated...I can tell already that I'm loving this forum!!
     
  2. I'm not familiar with Alien Skin or Silver Efex Pro in CS2/CS3 but I concur that it would be nice to have a more powerful B&W conversion plug-in for NX2. Have you spent any time with Color Efex Pro's B&W conversion option? Since Nik makes both that and Silver Efex Pro, I'm wondering if Color Efex pro comes close. I actually have Color Efex Pro but haven't spent much time with B&W conversions. Interesting that Color Efex Pro 2.0 had three B&W conversion filters and version 3.0 is down to only 2. Makes me think Nik may be planning to release a separate B&W conversion option for NX (probably Silver Efex for NX). Hmmm.

    There are also a lot of CS3 techniques available for B&W conversions (on the web, in books, in magazines) and I'm wondering if any NX/NX2 users have tried to "convert" these techniques into NX steps.



    Regards,
    Peter G.
     
  3. JDillon

    JDillon

    12
    Aug 2, 2008
    Maryland
    As a hobbyist, I’ve had luck with the following approach in NX for B&W conversions. The workflow is based on the Film/Filter method used in PS. Here is my workflow (at least today :cool:) with comments.

    1. Open color image;

    2. “Final” crop;
    Right now I am of the school for doing an early crop (but using NX2 probably negates this);

    3. Adjust global tonality (double threshold method, levels and curves, or LCH);

    4. Add “Film” edit step - Filter > B&W Conversion;
    Preliminarily adjust filter hue, filter strength, brightness and contrast to taste (use the View > Lost highlights, and Lost Shadows to get in the ballpark);

    5. Add “Filter” edit step - Filter > Photo Effects > Black and White
    Preliminarily adjust brightness, and three color sliders to taste;

    6. Add “neutral” LCH layer, multiply blend mode, opacity 5-15, +/- brush, curve and local contrast tweaks;

    7. Fine tune steps 4-6 to taste;

    8. Local light/hue/saturation/color/sharpening/blur etc. to achieve image “balance”;

    9. Edge burn using gradient tool - adjust opacity to taste;

    10. Add “Toner” edit step (Optional) - Filter > Tint
    Adjust brightness, color sliders, and opacity to taste.
    Suggested settings: Sepia (RGB = 20-30, 4-11, 12-22), Silver Gelatin (10-30, -15- -5, -50 - -40), Palladium (15-22, -12- 0, -35 - -25), Silver (-10 - 0, 0-10, 0-10);

    11. Fine tune steps 4-10 (optional);

    12. Add global USM to enhance midtones (10/75/0, opacity 50 or to taste);
    May not be necessary if Step 6 (“neutral” LCH layer) is used.

    13. Add global High Pass sharpening step;

    14. Add grain (optional): For Nikon D70s JPEGs, here are some values that I have found useful as starting points. T-Max 100, strength=10, grain=small, opacity=90; T-Max 400, 30,M,90; Plus X-125, 20,S,90; T-Max 3200, 60, M,100;

    15. Output sharpening; and

    15. Print

    Additional comments:

    Having the two B&W conversion steps in NX/NX2 offers enormous flexibility in adjusting the B&W image. Additionally, I sometimes add several toner edit steps (for each tone) and check and uncheck them to see what I like best. (It is too bad one cannot name the edit steps to avoid confusion though). I usually dial back the opacity in the toner steps to 20 or so, but that is only my taste. One can save many of these steps as a setting which really speeds things up.

    As an aside, I have tried a number of the PSCS2 B&W plugins, and also have Nik Efex for NX, and Alien Skin Exposure 2.0 for PSCS2. Alien Skin is a very nice plugin, albeit expensive, but it is very user friendly and one can really work the image in many ways. But for me, NX (now NX2) fits my workflow and I am happy with the B&W conversion results. I haven’t had much luck with the Nik plugin and find the above more flexible. While I haven’t upgraded to CS3, I understand that its new B&W conversion integrates many menu items probably making some of the plugins less useful.

    Lastly, the order of some of these steps could be changed a bit (probably for the better), but this is what works for me.

    Hope this helps. Now, if I could just shoot an image that justifies all the above! Have fun!!

    Jim
     
  4. Jim, thanks a ton! If you don't mind, couple questions jump out right away for me (before I get a chance to try it). I'm not trying to be a pain, just understand some of the logic.

    - What's the logic behind step 5, the b&W step after you've already done step 4's b&w conversion? Could you skip step 4 and do it all in step 5?

    - Can you explain "edge burn" , step 9?

    step 10 . For toner, you use the tint filter. I've seen many use the colorize filter and pick a kind of mocha color and an opacity setting to give a kind of sepia look. Can you discuss the choice of tint vs colorize?

    Can you explain how step 6 (LCH) could eliminate the need for step 12 (USM) as you state in step 12?

    Finally, what are hour settings in the High Pass step (13)? Why High Pass vs USM?

    Lot's of questions, I know, but I really want to improve my B&W conversions and am very interested in this topic.

    Regards,
    Peter G.
     
  5. Good stuff Jim. I followed it in NX and liked the result. I had been doing it in NX for a while but not in so much detail, as you added a few steps. I have the same question about the "edge burn" as I don't know where the option is (and NX help file is weak).Also why High Pass? I never like its results. Thx.
     
  6. JDillon

    JDillon

    12
    Aug 2, 2008
    Maryland
    Peter,

    I'm for sure no expert, but let me take a stab at your good questions.

    Step 5 is quite important. While Step 4 is global in nature, step 5 allows you to fine-tune the luminance difference between objects in your photo to emphasize both what you feel is important and the differences in "color" between objects.

    Edge burning is an old dark-room technique to focus the attention of the viewer to the object of interest and to provide a very subtle "frame" between the image and the surrounding empty viewing area, i.e. the matte. Jason Odells NX2 e-book has a nice example for a color image, but it works very well for B&W - perhaps even better. In essence it is a deliberate darkening of outside edge of the image. It must be VERY subtle or it looks fake.

    Regarding tint vs colorize, I can't offer any opinion as I got used to using the tint edit step and save the color setting with the appropriate name, i.e. sepia, palladium etc.

    Step 6 in place of Step 12. Sure, if Step 6 gives you what you want. The great thing about NX is that you can have both and turn off one to see if it adds anything. I have found Step 12 useful for building "density" in low contrast scans of old Kodachrome color slides that I then convert to B&W, but YMMV.

    For global High Pass sharpening, I usually end up around a radius of 2 with an opacity of 50 or so. Sometimes this is preceeded by a global USM of 64/2/4 for a D70s camera.

    High Pass vs USM? Rightly or wrongly, I view USM as a global sharpening adjustment tool as it works on the color channels, RGB, either all at once or individually. This latter capability might be important if one has a lot of blue sky in your image and you do not want to sharpen the sky. However, this can be handled other ways too. High Pass works on the luminance and is perhaps better for areas that contain high detail in high contrast surrounding. I don't think that there are any hard and fast rules for using one or the other, or both. What looks good is what counts. Generally, I use local HP for small details, i.e. flower parts in close-ups, raindrops on flowers, eyes, lips - things I want the viewer to notice.

    Hope this answers your question. If not, give me another chance :cool:.

    Jim
     
  7. JDillon

    JDillon

    12
    Aug 2, 2008
    Maryland
    Alex,

    Glad it worked, and hopefully my response to Peter will clear things up. Edge burn is done with the gradient tool, in either the retangular or radial mode, depending on the image you are working on. You then add an image darkening step (method up to you) and adjust opacity to taste, but it must (in most cases anyway) very subtle. Jason's NX2 e-book has a nice example - on a color image.

    I like High Pass for local sharpening of small details in an image. Actually, when I am at 100% zoom, and in overlay mode, it is fun to watch the affect of adjusting the radius. Then clicking and unclicking the effect allows me to determine if I need to further fine-tune the radius.

    Jim
     
  8. One more question

    Thanks. I had a few moments to play with the "tint" vs "colorize" and I actually reproduced my "very subtle sepia" (which I normally create with a colorize step and use for portraits) with the tint filter approach (set at 4, -2, -8). The result looks very, very similar actually... so it's probably a toss-up.

    For the "edge burning" I've been using the Nik Color Efex Pro's "Lighten/Darken Center" filter, but I think the effect is probably similar. I just hadn't heard the technique called "edge burning" in a long time.

    I've used HP some and I generally have fallen back to USM, but given your explanation, I think I'll experiment more. It makes sense, I just want to see it.

    The only thing I'd like you to explain more (you didn't think you were done did you?:smile:) is step 6
    (6. Add “neutral” LCH layer, multiply blend mode, opacity 5-15, +/- brush, curve and local contrast tweaks;)

    In LCH you can do many different things, (lightness, color lightness, chroma and hue) and I'm not clear what you are actually suggesting to tweak in this step. Are you just doing curve changes and brushing them on ?

    Thanks in advance,
    Peter G.
     
  9. JDillon

    JDillon

    12
    Aug 2, 2008
    Maryland
    Peter,
    In essence, Yes. The multiply blend mode will darken the overall image, but it does it in a special way that accentuates the midtones - if I understand correctly how it works. Afterwards, pick-and-choose what you like with the +/- brush - or just leave alone.

    I should have mentioned in my original post that one can optimize the color image - as we normally do - then convert to B&W and adjust. I still have a hard time visualizing B&W on a color image, so converting to B&W at the start helps me see what is going on with each edit step - as I do it. But you may prefer to optimize the color image first.

    I will have to try the colorize method, but as you imply, if it gives results that are pleasing, then why change.

    I have always been fascinated by B&W, but never had the opportunity (career and all that) to explore it. Now, with digital (and NX/NX2) it is a whole new ballgame - and what fun!

    Jim
     
  10. Thanks Jim. I agree with the fun part! But sometimes the options are so numerous that you can suffer "paralysis by analysis", spending too much time trying variation upon variation of post-processing techniques and not enough actually shooting new material!

    Regards,
    Pete