Maybe I’m just different.
I’ve read and heard a lot of photographers talk about how they can know before they ever hit the shutter button whether an image will look better as a color, black and white, sepia tone, etc. They already have the look of the finished product in the minds.
That’s not me. Every once in a while I can glance down at the viewer during a shoot and think, “Hey that might work well without color.” But those instances are very, very rare. As I explained in this post, it’s far more likely that I will make a decision about the final look of an image in post production than with a camera in my hand.
That being said, as I was preparing for yesterday’s post about Eden’s pregnancy shoot, I started playing around with one of the images and began thinking about how it looked really good with a variety of different color treatments. That’s unusual for me, because most of the time, I settle on a look for an image fairly early and then stick with it.
It got me to thinking that this particular image, since it seemed to hold up well no matter what did to it, might be a good example to show some of the different looks that are possible.
So let’s get started. Below is the original image, one of my favorites from the shoot.
The obvious first treatment would be black and white, which would seem to work well with the skin tones, wardrobe and background. But there are a variety of ways that we can go, even with black and white. The first is a simple grayscale, with an adjustment for exposure and contrast.
Nice, but I wondered what else we could do from a black and white perspective. So I ran it through a treatment that is generally done for landscapes and this is what I came up with:
Little bit softer, little more dreamy. Next, I tried what is called a selenium tone, which is based on an archival film developing process from the early past of the last century.
Very similar to the grayscale, but with slight differences in contrast. Then I thought about adding back in some color. The next treatment is called a cream tone, I think it works well with this image:
Next is a straight sepia tone, which also works well. By the way, you see all kinds of browns called sepia, but I think the range below comes closest to what sepia is really supposed to look like:
The next treatment is called antique light, and tries to capture what the lighting was like in photographs back before the turn of the last century:
So what if we really turned up the colorizing? We get the next treatment, which I think is really interesting:
All these are great, but what can we do with the color image? There is an interesting process from the film days called Bleach Bypass, in which the process of running the color film through bleach was skipped. The result was an image that was partially a black and white and partially color, with high contrast. This is what it looks like recreated digitally:
I think it creates a great effect. A close cousin to that is a vintage effect, which tries to recreate some of the vintage film processing techniques from a half century ago. I like this one a lot, too.
The advertising agencies that handle Ralph Lauren’s accounts have helped him develop a very distinctive style for the photography of his clothes. It’s hard to describe, but you know it when you see it. This next one tries to create that style. It’s usually better with outdoors shots, but works with this one, too:
And finally, what if we tried to recreate the haziness of a summer day indoors? It might look something like this: OK, so maybe I went a little crazy. But I wanted you to see what is possible with images. It doesn’t have to be just color or just black and white. It can be something totally different. It just depends on your perspective.