Quick fixes are sometimes good

As I mentioned the other day, converting a portrait to black and white can be good if it is not optional in the first place. It is an “easy fix”. Not that my friend, model Kim, pictured below in a shoot Thursday night, needs these fixes much…  but of course she, like everyone, has normal human skin.

As I said the other day, I am not a fan of altering people. But removing temporary blemishes, and de-emphasizing permanent ones, is not different from applying make-up and is better for the skin.

Kim Gorenko (Photo: Michael Willems)

But it is more than that. As I have mentioned here before,

  • Colour can distract in portraits, while black and white removes those distractions.
  • Mixed light (eg tungsten and unmodified flash) is problematic, but in black and white, light is just light.
  • You can emphasize or de-emphasize various colours when converting colour to black and white. To make that yellow shirt darker, or to make that green wall lighter.
  • And yes, you can fix sin, or make it smoother, by converting to black and white and then increasing the brightness of red in the mix (equivalent to using a red filter on a film camera). A blue filter would do the opposite – make skin look really, really bad.

How to do black and white?

  • Shoot in colour, in RAW format.
  • Then convert later – in Lightroom using the B&W option, where you can vary all colours individually, thus creating any filter effect you want. Experiment by dragging the various channels up and down.
  • If (and only if) you are shooting in RAW, you can set your camera’s “picture style” to Black and White. That way by looking at the on-camera preview you get an idea of what the converted image may look like – but since RAW saves all the colours, you are still going to do the conversion later, on your computer.

For better skin, as said, drag the RED channel UP (+).  This makes blemishes brighter (i.e. they disappear). Dragging Orange up makes all of the skin brighter, which also of course makes it look better by reducing both blemishes and shadows.

OK, one more image.. here, the colours of the walls etc would definitely distract from the message of the photo:

Kim Gorenko (Photo: Michael Willems)


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