Video: A B&W workflow tutorial

After the series of articles on color and B&W – and of course the M-Monochrom review – I got a huge number of emails asking about my workflow for B&W conversion. I originally tried to put this post into a conventional text and image format, but gave up shortly after I realized it would be impossible. Instead, have a video! I don’t claim to be any good at video production (forays into this are are another topic for another day), but I think this should give you a good idea of how it all comes together. Excuse the lousy sound, that bit I still haven’t quite gotten figured out yet. I suppose I need some collar mics or something – the equipment buying never ends…

Anyway, enjoy the video. MT



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  1. J.E.Perez.E says:

    Nice and informative video, but it will be even nicer if you can give us some of the values of burn in and dodge settings.

  2. Ming,

    I have found the RODE Podcaster with stand and optional shock mount to be the ideal solution for recording voice on videos. Pair it with a set of SONY headphones and you have it made. Also works great for SKYPE calls. It works great while you are typing and is available as a set through Amazon. 🙂 – Eric

  3. Excellent BW Tutorial. Would your Workflow DVD be the same quality? And would the price be the same if you ship to the Philippines? Thanks.

    • It’s actually much better because I used screen cap software that runs at the native screen resolution, plus the audio is clearer. This was a trial run. Yes, price is the same anywhere in the world – US$60 net to me including postage, via Paypal gift or personal payment. Thanks!

  4. Excellent video. Thanks for doing this. One area where I really want to explore in photography is Black & White and your video provides a great starting point. I also enjoy reading your blog immensely. Love your writing and photos. You are my role model. If I am half as good as you in writing and photography, I will be extremely happy.

  5. Gen Kanai says:

    I just did a bunch of research on lavaliere mics and what I decided on was the Rode Lavalier.

    The Germans (Sennheiser) and the Japanese (Audio Technica/Sony) also put out great lav mics but the Rode is a great buy for the money. For quality audio your camera has to support XLR audio input or you need a separate audio recorder that accepts XLR. There’s a few different options (i.e. a Beachtek/Juicedlink box if you want to record directly to the camera or a Zoom/Tascam audio recorder with XLR inputs that can also then input to your camera as well as record to SD card.)

    • Gen Kanai says:

      Chad Johnson did a nice review of 4 mini shotgun mics (albeit not the ME-1 that you have.)

      • Gen Kanai says:

        The reality is that mini shotgun mics don’t really give you good audio unless the mic is very, very close to the subject. Pro shotgun mics are better, but still the reach is fairly short.

        Coming from the photo world, into video, I’ve quickly understood that audio is easily half of the total experience of a video. And good audio is tough to do well! And you can’t push it two stops like you can a RAW file 🙂

  6. Thanks so much, that was very interesting, but I would also love to know more about your sharpening workflow. You’ve obviously put a lot of thought into it if you have a number of presets put together. And on another topic, would really like to know how you transfer over presets when you upgrade your Photoshop? I usually don’t bother upgrading except for once every other generation or so, but it seems to blow away everything I have built. They really don’t have a great upgrade path to transfer everything (fonts, etc.).

    Again, love your blogs, your advice, and most of all your work!

    • Thanks Andrew. I’ll talk about sharpening in a future article. The presets are like different grades of sandpaper – what I use depends what the starting point is!

      You can copy over your preferences, import brushes/ color settings/ actions etc – but sometimes things break in the transfer, and it’s a very messy process of copying files from one place to another in multiple different files. I too avoid upgrades unless absolutely necessary because of this. Broken workflow (or missing elements) is not fun – I get a taste of this every time I use a PS on a computer that isn’t set up for me. The missing keyboard shortcuts are what does it in for me…

  7. Jacen L says:

    Great to see video content from ya. I personally prefer video tutorials over written ones as it is easier to follow the steps.

    Quicktime has free screen recording but it is as bare bones as it gets. You might wanna give ScreenFlow a look. I’ve been using it for years. Extremely flexible and powerful. Capable of recording screens, audio and video simultaneously, adding subtitles and key inputs is a breeze, editing is a snap… the list goes on. Check it out.

  8. Excellent – thank you so much for the information re: sharpening action! That’s a VERY minor sharpening!

    • Yes, but it of course assumes that you nailed critical focus when shooting and didn’t have any issues with camera shake etc.

  9. Mike Hohman says:

    Love the video, keep them coming! It’s so nice the see the man behind the blog…

  10. Great!!
    Anxious for more.
    720p, if I can kindly ask for something. Just because in low res it’s hard to see the tools and numbers.
    Finally a trustful photo edit video on the web.

    • Slow internet connection issues are why I didn’t do 720p – upload would have taken forever. I’ll see what I can do for the next one.

      • Gen Kanai says:

        I think if you use the screen recorder for the portions that are just the screen then video quality will go up a lot. 720p is preferable but I think just moving to the screen recorder will make a big difference.

  11. ordinaryimages says:

    I would make a layer via copy of the background before dodge/burn under the premise that I could change my mind at a later date or add a layer mask for finite tweeking.

    • Depends if you know what you want or not – I’ve done this often enough that I have a clear picture in my mind of my end result, so I don’t bother with adjustment layers, masks and copies. I would however highly recommend it if you need to make incremental changes, or you’re not experienced.

  12. Kim Roberts says:

    Loved the video – exceptionally informative and great to see how other photographers handle black & white (it being so subject/mood specific a process). But please, in future videos, don’t use actions unless you’re going to break-down the action itself. I can’t count the number of videos I’ve sat through only to discover several key final steps are performed via custom actions that the author leaves unexplained!

    Having said that, I far prefer video over text based tutorials and you’ve done a spectacular job.

    I look forward to seeing more!

    • Thanks Kim. The only action I use is sharpening – which is basically more of a preset than an action – smart sharpen with amount 130, radius 0.3, and threshold 0 – that’s it.

  13. Igor Schutz says:

    Thank you for the video, Ming, very informative. Hope to see more of these in future (I second the comments about HD and screen recording). Also, I think that you should post the post-processed image at the end of your blog post, so the people can see the results (an before-after comparison would be even better).

  14. Great segment. Very helpful. Hope to see more in the future. Sharpening and color correction workflow would be great. Thanks again.

    • Thanks. Sharpening I can do, color correction is meaningless because of the color space conversion for video…you won’t see any of the subtle adjustments even with screen video capture, sadly. I tried.

  15. Nicely done! Sound quality of course needs a lot of work, but nothing a collar mike won’t solve!

  16. Thanks for that YouTube video! This afternoon I will go straight to my computer for playing around (B&W) with some files! It´s so much fun!

  17. michael says:

    Excellent! In addition to being an amazing photographer, you are also a great teacher. Thank you for sharing your technique.

  18. Thank you for the video, I found it very informative and am really looking forward to a future video on how you came up with your sharpening actions.

    If I could offer one piece of feedback: for future videos, would it be possible for you to use screencasting software for the photoshop portions of your video? Recording the screen with a camera made it quite hard to see the effects of what you were doing to the image with some of the more subtle steps.

    All that to say, really enjoyed seeing your process and looking forward to future videos.

  19. Thanks Ming, very informative. The video format is so much more accessible than a long blog post with screenshots; look forward to similar ones in the future (in HD please!).

    I was surprised that your typical BW workflow doesn’t include trying out color filter combinations, like Silver Efex Pro has. Of course it depends on the shot, but I’ve found it can really bring out subjects and often looks more natural than manual tweaking.

    • Yes, I figured as much for Photoshop based stuff – I’ll probably do a mini-series in the near future (once I have some time).

      Nope, if I need to bring out subjects that either says a) the shot works better in color because it’s color contrast isolation rather than luminance isolation, or b) I should use the channel mixer. Not a huge fan of the filters and plugins, I don’t get enough control.

  20. peterwalkowiak says:

    Loved the video. Just so you know apple has a free screen recorder built into QuickTime X. File > new screen recording.

    I hope this Helps.


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