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Power Retouche Black/White Studio 1.3 pro review
A Photoshop plugin for converting colour to black and white
There are lots of ways of converting colour to black and white.
This plugin tries to make the process more like some of the steps you might consider when working with film and paper in a darkroom.
We have a collection of methods available on this site, so what made Keith look at another black and white conversion plugin?
Several novel features of Black/White Studio from Power Retouche mimic aspects of Keith's normal black and white workflow.
These offer the equivalent of sophisticated masked adjustment layers within the plugin itself.
The Apple Mac version of the plugin is covered here, but the PC windows version works the same (although the interface is slightly different.
Black/White Studio is one of a wide range of Photoshop plugins available from Power Retouche (demos available).
What sets it apart, is the range of adjustments you can incorporate during the conversion.
This is from the developers site:
I'll show the basic features of the plugin, but to really get the feel for the range of options, you should download the demo and have a play yourself.
Many of the controls should be familiar to anyone who has worked in a darkroom, but even if you haven't, some experimenting on images of your own should give you some ideas about what everything does. There is also plenty of information about the different functions on the developer's site.
Opening the plugin shows a sample of your original, converted to black and white.
In this instance the effect of an orange filter with conventional black and white film is simulated.
However, filters would vary in their effects with different types of black and white film and you can simulate this too.
One of the distinguishing features of different types of film were their sensitivities to different colours (wavelengths) of light. The default setting is an even sensitivity (perceptual luminance).
You can change the display to show your original image as well
or even split the view
The slider allows you to zoom in, while you can also drag the image in the window to see other parts.
The print options are related to a lot of the processes that you might use when printing in the dark room, but have the advantage of being much quicker and don't leave your fingers smelling of chemicals...
In this first example I've just increased the intensity of the shadows - there is still detail visible there, it just doesn't show up very well in this reduced JPEG of a screen shot
Notice the checked highlight and black alerts.
These give you a quick guide to clipping, and show up like this if you really push things.
The most novel feature comes under the 'Zones' control
It is very similar to the masked Photoshop adjustment layers that I make heavy use of in many of my black and white landscape prints.
You can select up to three zones (areas of similar brightness) and adjust them. In the picture below I've selected some of the shadowed wall (with the eye dropper) and can alter it's look.
You can see the areas being affected by enabling visibility of the masks.
This is a very powerful tool and can save a lot of time in setting adjustment layers
Note that the selection is based on lightness, not area. This means that you do have to be quite careful in using the tool.
Just in case you are concerned about having to do your work in a small window - it can be resized (here on a 23" monitor)
The results were quick and showed no obvious artefacts from the conversion.
I like the speed at which you can experiment with different effects, and I found that the zones feature was of use for me in quickly sketching out possible alternatives for a black and white photograph. One minor thing to note is that the zones vary with adjustments, so if you have a selection of light areas and darken them, then the zone may shrink or change shape.
I suppose that since I do a lot of this sort of stuff, I'm looking for more detailed control over the zones effects. However if you are less experienced in digital black and white I think it would be of great use, in helping you get more out of your work.
During my teaching work, I often find one of the hardest things is for students to get used to visualising the finished results they are aiming for. I'll certainly use this plugin for quickly showing some of the wide variety of approaches you can have to converting colour images to black and white.
There are lots of detailed sample images showing the effect of all the various settings, available at the Power Retouche site along with a demo that I'd suggest you try...
Thanks to everyone who has ever purchased something via our links.
We hope to have more information on some of the other plugins in the Power Retouche family in future, concentrating on how Keith found them useful for his wider photographic work.
A very comprehensive and easy to use plugin for converting colour images to black and white, both in RGB and CMYK
Lots of useful effects that should be familiar to those coming from a film background, while not putting off those who regard film purely as a historical aspect of photography :-)
The plugin is available either on its own at $75 or as part of various packages of the many other plugins offered by this developer.
Note (from developers info)
The views in this article represent those of Keith Cooper.
Keith is always happy to discuss matters raised in his articles. You can Email Us
Northlight Images prides itself on its independence when giving advice. We do not sell hardware or software and have no direct commercial links with any of the software or hardware vendors that may be mentioned here. See our Review Policy for more information.
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