A Black and white tool for colour contrast enhancement.
Colour images on cloudy days rarely have the punch that I’d like (for architectural photos for example).
Whilst there are a lot of filters you can apply (see my Nik Color Efex 4 and Tiffen Dfx filter 3 reviews), they easily fall into the ‘too many options’ problem, where you are spoilt for choice. Unless you use them a lot, it’s difficult to visualise a path through to the image you want.
It so happens that I often use Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 to produce my black and white prints. With care, you can avoid sharpening halos and all the egregious excesses of some ‘HDR style’ photos.
But what of colour?
Here’s a typical colour image from a dull day – converted from a RAW file to give a full range of tones, with no clipping of highlights or shadows.
It was a wet morning on the North Cornish coast…
First up, I’ll run the Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 plugin to get a black and white version. I’ve lightly boosted contrast and local contrast (structure), whilst a yellow filter has darkened the blue parts of the sky.
Next I’ll change the blending mode of the new (converted) B&W layer to luminance (note that you can turn down the effect with the opacity of this layer.
I’m very much aware of potential edge artefacts (such as halos) so I run over obvious areas in a mask applied to the Silver Efex Pro B&W layer.
Note that I’ve set the mask channel to visible here, so that where I’m painting the layer out, it temporarily shows as red.
Then I’ve added a vibrance adjustment layer to give a bit more colour to the image.
A few minor tweaks (colour balance, levels) and I have an image that looks much more how I felt it did, without too much of the obvious HDR look.
I’ve deliberately ‘overcooked’ some of the adjustments here to show the effect, but using a plugin such as Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 to enhance colour images is a useful tool – particularly since you can easily alter the mask, to apply the effects to particular areas of an image.
There are many ways of achieving similar effects just using Photoshop, but I thought I’d share this particular idea.
PS I’d much rather work in better light, but I do a lot of my photography in the UK ;-)