Exercise – Colours into Tones in Black and White

I’ve always been a fan of black and white and the way the detail of an image stands out more when the eye isn’t distracted by colour.  The use of filters when shooting with black and white film can change the appearance and tone of different colours, depending on what colour filter is used.  For example, using a red filter over the lens when shooting a  landscape on a sunny day can render the blue sky nearly black, and of here’s some little white fluffy clouds around it can make for a really dramatic shot. Shooting digitally in colour makes life a bit easier as you don’t need to make your film colour or filter decisions before shooting, as digital editing software has various black and white adjustments that can be used in post-processing.

For this exercise I needed to build and shoot a still-life set up containing examples of red, green, blue and yellow items, so after a bit of hunting around, this is what I came up with – which is kind of reminiscent of my former RAF Photographer career! I’ve also included a set of black, white and grey cards, with the grey being a mid-tone and acts as a constant throughout all of the changes carried out in post-processing.

I shot quite a few variations of this image, starting out by just using available light with a reflector to bounce a bit of light back in, but then I gave in a got my flash out, and with a long exposure, pinged a few bursts of off-camera flash in during the exposure.  Technically I’m not into the lighting part of this course, so I should just stick to available light, but I preferred the flashed image so I’ve gone with that one for the next part of the exercise – playing with the different black and white filter settings in Adobe Photoshop.

Once the image was loaded into Photoshop I then needed to create 5 additional versions of the original image and apply various black and white filter adjustments and look at all the images together to see the differences that the various adjustments create. Click on the images in the gallery below to look at a larger version.

Nikon D800 | 100 ISO | 3 Seconds | f/32


Exercise – Colour Relationships

The colours in the colour wheel seen in my previous post balance differently with the complementary colours opposite them on the colour wheel, depending on their perceived brightness.  The brighter the colour, the less is required to balance an image, for example, red and green are perceived to be of the same brightness value and therefore balance well at a ratio of 1:1, in equal measures.  Orange is perceived to be brighter than its complementary colour of blue and therefore should take up less than the image than blue in order to create the correct balance, and ideally should be at ratio of 1:2, with more blue than orange.  Yellow is even brighter than it complementary colour of violet and should be used in a ratio of 1:3. The image below shows the colour balance combinations and ratios.

17th century poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe devised a colour notation system, to give a value to the brightness of the colours – the higher the number, the brighter the hue. E.G Red = 6, Green = 6, Blue = 4, Orange = 8, Violet = 3, Yellow = 9 – and the complementary colour pairs add up to 12, although whether this is actually relevant, I’ve no idea!

Part One

For this exercise first I needed to find one image for each of the harmonised complementary colour pairs above, in the ratios required for good balance, which was no easy task.  I wanted to try and keep away from staging all of them, but wanted to fully fill the frame as much as possible with the colours, for there to be no doubt about the colours involved, with no others lurking around in the background, getting in the way.  One of the images was spotted whilst out and about, and then for the other two I gave in and bought myself some chocolate and some flowers – for educational purposes only, obviously! (click on the images for larger versions and captions)

Part Two

For the second part of this exercise I had a slightly easier task of finding colour combinations that appealed to me, and they didn’t have to fit into the ratios above.

Overall, once again I found this a really interesting exercise, having never looked at colour relationships in this way before, only going with what I thought worked.  It would be interesting to trawl back through my work over the years to see if any of my images have naturally fallen into any of the ratios, without thinking about it.