Better B&W images with “Creative B&W processing techniques” by Guy Tal

Just a few days ago, Guy Tal, a fine art photographer from Utah released his latest e-book. “Creative B&W Processing Techniques” is devoted solely to photographing and post-processing digital images destined to be presented in black and white. The e-book is a companion to his earlier e-book, “Creative Processing Techniques”, where basics of using Lightroom (LR4) and Photoshop (CS6) techniques are discussed in more general terms of digital photography.

It is well known to anybody even remotely interested in black and white images that not every image will work when converted to black and white. Stripped of colors, the subject of the image changes in the sense that it is not anymore about the color contrast, but possibly the contrast of light and shadow, but often becomes about texture, pattern or shape. Also, the conversion is not, or at least should not be, limited to desaturating the colors in the image.

Guy Tal starts “Creative B&W Processing Techniques” from explaining these basic facts to the readers. He does it very eloquently and with certain dose of technical information for each step of image creation and conversion. Yet, I have not felt overloaded with dry facts at any point. I do feel they helped me deeper understand some aspects of digital images in general, aspects I have never before given a second thought.

This introduction is followed by description of photographic workflow steps, starting from an idea for an image (call that starting from the beginning!) up to recurring post-processing steps. Believe me, it is not as complicated as it sounds! Although reminds me of my scientific second life, when each steps is dissected into smaller step and smaller, until you are left with a single activity to do.

Instead of writing chapter by chapter what is included in the “Creative B&W Processing Techniques”, let me just refer you to the Table of Contents (click on the image to see a larger version). Instead, I would like to discuss a few tips I learned from the e-book, which were new to me.

Several pages at the beginning of “Creative B&W Processing Techniques” are devoted to the time the image is created for the first time in the camera or even before that, visualized in your mind’s eye. Guy Tal suggests keeping a photographing diary, and note emotions and impression connected with the image. He shows later in the book how to use this information to guide you through post-processing to reflect those feelings in the final image. In this sense the Lightroom and Photoshop becomes tools to achieving the image matching this vision rather then being post-processing directed into improving on existing digital negative in a random way.

I was surprised how Guy Tal almost dismissed Zone System, Ansel Adams’ way to approach correct exposure. But what he offers instead in rather thorough explanation of the histogram, including importance of the individual histograms for separate color channels. How many of you would think it is not all that important for back and white image? Or bit depth and color space, which seem to be even more relevant in black and white than they are in color images. Or how many would remember to fix chromatic aberrations before black and white conversion? And the same is with setting the white balance. Unlike for the color image, the white balance it not supposed to be “correct” in any way, but to help increase the contrast between colors and preserve information. How? Read appropriate chapter in the e-book!

There is a large amount of images throughout “Creative B&W Processing Techniques”, as illustrations and examples to described concepts. It is a bit of the pity, since Guy Tal is really skilled photographer and I would love to see more of his images. There is a number of exercises included in the e-book, to summarize the information after each large section. Unlike in many other e-books, they are focus on reviewing more theoretical knowledge. They make you think about images rather than go and create. And there are even correct answers included at the end of the e-book! Additional value from the e-book comes from short quotes from famous photographers. It all gives the e-book a bit intellectual feel rather than artistic, but certainly sets it apart from other publications.

I can honestly state that “Creative B&W Processing Techniques” is the most in depth e-book on the subject of black and white photographs, and touches many details I have not seen discussed in any other publication before. Conversion techniques are followed by basic global and local adjustments, after which author explains more creative ideas like duotones or color painting, as well as gets into details of advanced black and white printing.

If you are interested in this type of photography, I am sure you will learn a lot from “Creative B&W Processing Techniques” regardless if you are starting out or have some experience in black and white digital imaginery. This e-book is also written in very inspirational and energizing way. I had to take occasional breaks in the reading and go to try some techniques described on my own images. I noticed right away that my black and white images looked so much better. The techniques described in the e-book are really helpful in creating more powerful, evocative black and white images.

“Creative B&W Processing Techniques” is available as PDF for instant download on Guy Tal’s web site at the price of just $9.95. It is optimized for viewing on any device, including new iPad with retina display. To purchase now, click here.

Other e-books by Guy Tal (all reviews coming up on this blog soon):
“Creative landscape photography”
“Creative digital printing”

Disclaimer- I have received an early draft of the e-book for review purpose. The links in this post are affiliate links. See details of affiliate policy here.

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