Photo of the Day / Photo Tip: From flat to ‘wall hanger’ via B&W conversion – November 19, 2009

Here is a little ‘before’ and ‘after’ shot.  I always teach to try and shoot when the light is low in the sky as this gives soft light and nice contrast to an image.  However, sometimes, you see something you like when the sun is high.  What to do?  Well of course photograph the subject, but then the work begins as one tries to take an image with flat light and make a ‘wall hanger’ out of it.

The first is obviously color.  It is basically the shot as taken, with levels set and minor sharpening:

Mid-day Giraffe - Copyright 2009: P. B. Eleazer

Mid-day Giraffe - Copyright 2009: P. B. Eleazer

Now for the ‘After shot’.  Of course the first things you will probably notice is that I have converted the image to black and white (B&W) and horizontally flipped the image.  What else do you notice about the general impact of the image when compared to the original?

B&W Conversion of a mid-day Giraffe stroll - copyright 2009: P. B. Eleazer

B&W Conversion of a mid-day Giraffe stroll - copyright 2009: P. B. Eleazer

Photo Tips – Here is what I am hoping you noticed:

  • Masked Layer 1: The giraffe seems more ‘featured’ in the second image.  This is because I maximized the black in one layer of my conversion resulting in the shrubs becoming much darker than the giraffe.
  • Masked Layer 2: The clouds are slightly more pronounced in the sky.  I created another layer, masking everything but the sky.  I then adjusted the image curve to add mid-range contrast between the clouds and sky.
  • Layer 3: I created a layer containing just the outside edges of the image and then lowered the levels on this region, creating strong vignetting (darkened image edge).  This brings focus and drama to the image.
  • Layer 4:  I captured just the giraffe as a layer and sharpened using unsharp mask.

I consider the color image to be too flat for framing, but a nice snapshot for a photo album.  The second image has much more drame and overall interest and is a better candidate for matting, framing and hanging on the wall.

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