B&W Image Adjustments using Curves

Curves can work magic with images

Give them a try


Mabry Mill

Blue Ridge Parkway, VA milepost 176

Technical – Nikon D300, Tokina 16-50 @28mm, 1/20 sec,  f/11, EV=-1.0, ISO200, WB=Cloudy, multi-segment metering, aperture priority, RAW capture, tripod, circular polarizer

The circular polarizer helped make this image
Late afternoon, early spring en route to the Smokies

Composition

“Post card” style

All about the mill and nothing else
Missing my dominant foreground element – unless you count the reflections
Fill the frame

Post-process

Step 1 – Convert RAW to jpeg in Capture NX2
Step 2 – Tonal & Color contrast adjustments in Color Efex Pro
Step 3 – B&W conversion in Silver Efex Pro 2 (tutorial here)


Lots of interesting B&W effects can be created using nothing but Curves. Note the “odd” curve, indicated by the red arrow, used for this image (click the image to enlarge). The standard curve is a straight line running from the lower left to the upper right corners. The above curve, leading to today’s feature image, provides a result similar to the film process called solarisation.
Using SEP2’s ability to save custom presets, I saved this as a Preset called Extreme Solarisation. In the future, an image like this is one click and a less than 5 seconds away.
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Here are examples of a few more different type of curves.
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If we flip the standard straight line curve, the result is exactly the same as a film negative of the original image as shown here (standard curve is shown as a red line for comparison). The left image is the “film positive” – i.e the standard B&W conversion.

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I was curious what the result of a curve that is a vertical flip of today’s solarisation curve would look like. We know from the shape of the curves that dark tones would remain dark, light tones will turn dark, and mid-tones will become lighter – but what does that look like. Here’s the answer for the Mabry Mill image. This won’t be one of my favorites.

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And last here is the curve that produces a two-tone image – pixels are either pure black or pure white – as discussed in the previous posts in this B&W curves series.

Can you visualize what flipping this curve vertically will do to the image? The blacks will turn white and the white’s black – a negative of the original.
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