Exercise: Strength of interpretation

The removal of the element of colour and with it the implication of reproducing reality, has a useful and interesting effect on processing. You can make much more aggressive changes to the overall brightness and to the contrast than would be reasonable with colour. To demonstrate this, take or choose from images that you already have, two photographs that you think would best suit the following adjustments:

– A strong increase in contrast that will include clipping (loss of detail) in at least the shadow areas.

– Low key or high key treatment, in which the entire brightness range is shifted down or up the scales.

Create these effects, one for each image, but in two versions- in colour and in black and white. For these exercises I used some images that I’d taken previously but hadn’t processed or used and are both in raw.

Image 1- Painted Harley Davidson

Original Image

Contrast original

Increase in contrast

Contrast colour

Black and white version of high contrast image

Contrast bw

I picked this image as it had a mixture of bright colours that I felt needed a bit more of a boost, and that due to the dark background, any adjustments would mean a loss of detail to the shadow areas. I used Photoshop CS6 for this as there wasn’t a curves function within Elements 9. Under adjustments and curves I was able to use the curves for form an ‘s’ shape.

Image 2- Vintage Citroen

This is a high key image with very similar light tones as shown by this histogram.


As its very bright, my option was to use the curves tool to adjust the colours so that they became much darker and therefore low key. I feel that it works much better as its brought some tone into the sky that wasn’t there originally.

When converted to black and white I feel that it really works well, the monochrome suits the vintage age of the car and helps to disguise the modern setting.


Original image

Low key treatment original

After processing

Low key treatment colour

Converted to black and white

Low key treatment bw


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