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Thursday, 7 October 2010

Colours into tones in black-and-white

This exercise is to see how colour effects tone in black & white images. The idea being to make a still-life arrangement that includes the colours red, blue, yellow & green; firstly taking one exposure in colour, then creating 5 black & white versions of the original. firstly a straight conversion, followed by 4 more, but for each one a different colour filter (the same colours as the still life) is applied, then to record the effect on the tonality of the result. (I used Photoshop colour filter presets).

I used Photoshop to apply the colour filters. (black & White film users would have had to use physical coloured filters over the camera lens to create the same effect)


I raided my daughter’s Lego box for this one! I wanted to use really strong definite colours and the Lego was perfect for this. I placed my ‘Still-Life’ onto a large grey card (to observe that the tone of the grey remained constant through the exercise), the camera was setup on a tripod and I was using natural light through a large window. The sky low grey cloud and dull which kept the light constant. I used an auto white balance setting for the original colour image.  

The camera was set up as:

39mm f/16 0.5 sec ISO 100

Colour Version

Black & White conversion - No Filter

The original coloured shot and the straight black and white conversion with no tone changes or filters applied. Apart from the bright yellow converting to a lighter tone, the rest of the colours have become very similar in tone which seems quite flat to me.

Green Filter

With the green filter the green base has become much lighter, the blue blocks have become darker in tone and the yellow blocks are also significantly brighter than the straight conversion. The red blocks where interesting though as their tone is almost exactly the same as the green base.

Blue Filter

The blue filter has made the blue blocks much lighter in tone, with the red and yellow blocks becoming much darker, especially the red blocks. The green base has become a little darker but only slightly. The most dramatic change is with the red and yellow blocks. It appears that those colours are being blocked by the filter.

Yellow Filter

The Yellow and red blocks have become lighter, especially the yellow; where detail has been lost in the highlights. In contrast he blue blocks have darkened and are so dark in tone, that some of the detail has been lost in shadow.

Red Filter

I feel that the red filter has made the most dramatic contrast to the image. The yellow and red blocks are very bright (very close to how the yellow filter worked), The blue blocks have turned to a very deep dark tone, with the green base also turning to very deep black tone.

A really fun exercise, showing how colour can be used to control the tones in black and white. I had experimented with this in the previous assignment elements of design, where I converted my submissions to black and white in a similar way to this, boosting the tones that would best compliment the subject.

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