But what do I know? I'm just a twice clicken brown shirt teabaggin tjroll. Right? --PatP

Not now. There are dirty, swaying men at my door. They’re looking for Brian. I need to go deal with that. --Thor

If Joss Wedon was near me, I'd of kicked his ass. --PaulC

Friday, February 18, 2011

So… How do photographers…?

Kerry asked me today: “how do photographers do that thing where they make a picture black and white except for one thing, like a rose or a red balloon?” To which I replied “magic.” Which is, of course, the official party line.

Then she said “Yeah. I know. Never reveal your tricks. But srsly, how do they do it?” I thought about it for a full eight seconds before I said “Photoshop. Or Lightroom. You could probably do it in Lightroom.” Then I showed her. For the curious, here’s how you do it. I started with this photo from Tucson.


I’m going to grey everything except for the butterfly. I’m going to do it twice: once in Lightroom 3 and once in Photoshop CS5. In both cases, I started with a CR2 that I had previously cropped and color corrected using Lighroom (which has all the same tools as the Adobe Raw Converter that comes with Photoshop).

In Lightroom, you use the adjustment brush. You set the “effect” to “color” and set the “saturation” to “-100.” Then you paint the whole photo except for the part you want to be in color. You’ll have to zoom in and do some fine tuning, but the adjustment brush has an “erase” mode that will put the color back in (took me a minute to figure out that bit). That’s about it. Like everything in Lightroom, pretty simple with pretty good results. Here’s what you end up with.

flutterby grey lightroom

Pretty good, but we can do better. Let’s load up Photoshop.

Start by making a selection. It won’t be perfect, but doesn’t need to be at this point. I used the magnetic lasso, but you could just as easily use the regular lasso or the pen tool. Select the butterfly. Next, click the “edit in quick mask mode” button at the bottom of the toolbar. This works just like a layer mask, except that instead of hiding part of the layer, you’re selecting it. You use the brush tool in black and white to edit the mask. By default, the mask appears red. For this particular project, I turned mine blue by double-clicking on the quick mask mode button because red didn’t contrast well enough with the orange butterfly. So this is what a quick mask looks like:

blue mask

That’s what mine looked like when I was about half-done with it. So, make sure everything you want to be greyscale is covered with blue (or whatever color your quickmask is) and whatever you want to be in color is not. Using the brush tool (b) with black selected paints the mask, and using it with white unpaints it (hit x to switch between black and white when you have one as the background as one as the foreground). I could have that backwards. I can never remember.

Once you have your mask just the way you want it, click the quick mask button again. That will take away your mask and replace it with a selection. This next step is vital. Go to the “select” menu and click the “inverse” option. This will select the part of the image that you had masked, as opposed to the part that was unmasked.

So now you’ve got a selection of all the stuff you want to have no color. Now, go to image>adjustments>black & white. This will bring up the “black & white” dialog. If you know what you’re doing, click “auto.” Then make adjustments until you’ve got what you want. If you don’t know what you’re doing, click “auto,” then play with the sliders until you figure out what’s going on. Make sure you’ve got the “preview” box checked or you won’t see what you’re doing. Make everything as light or dark as you want it. When you’re done, click “okay.” Done. You should have something like this:

Flutterby grey photoshop

I just took the auto black and white settings (not to be confused with the default settings, which are what show up in the dialog before you hit the “auto” button) and didn’t change anything. I think this turned out a lot better than the Lightroom method, and it was easier (if more tedious) to make a perfect selection.

So, that’s how photographers do that. But remember: if anybody asks, the answer is “magic.”



  2. Oh. Right on. Lemme actually dump my metadata (no need to shout).

    Camera: Canon Digital Rebel XTi (10.1 megapixels)
    Lens: Canon EF-s 18-55mm (f/3.5-5.6)
    Focal Lenghth: 55mm
    Aperture: f/8
    Shutterspeed: 1/80
    ISO: 100
    Original Dimensions: 3888x2592
    Cropped Dimensions: 1496x867.
    Autofocus: off
    Flash: none

    I usually shoot in manual with my aperture as wide open as my zoom will allow, and set my shutterspeed to get a good exposure. In this case, I think I was shooting in Aperture Priority, because I was in and out of dark buildings and desert sun all day and didn't want to have to remember to change my shutterspeed back and forth. I shot at f/8 because I wanted that little bit of extra depth of field, since I'm essentially doing macro work without macro equipment, and autofocus is the devil.

    This photo was taken at the Sonora Desert Museum, in Tucson, AZ, at 15:05 on November 9, 2010.

  3. Sorry, didn't mean to caps lock you. Nice camera.

  4. The last camera I owned used Kodachrome, so I'm a newb when it comes to modern cameras. The Rebel XTi is way above my rank, pay grade, and ability. I'm looking at the Canon Powershot SX130IS 12.1MP, $180. Made by Canon and within my price range, right? The Canon SX30IS is 14.1MP and almost $200 more. Do I, Joe photo, need 14.1MP?

  5. Strictly speaking, you don't "need" more than 10. That being said, more is ALWAYS better. Resolution is important, but it's not the only thing. If you use the right lens for the right job, compose in the camera and never have to crop in post, 10 is all you'll ever need. But that's not always the case. Sometimes there's something way in the backfield that I didn't even know was in my shot, and it turns out that's what I want to keep. If I've got more megapixels, I've got a much better chance of being able to crop down and zoom in and still have a reasonable amount of detail.

    Is a difference of 2 megapixels worth an extra 200 gypsy tears? In my opinion, no. If that's the only difference, I'd definitely go with the cheaper one.

    If you really think you wouldn't know what to do with a Rebel or a Mark 3, the Powershots you're looking at are probably full of a lot of extra features you'll never use. If you want to figure out how to use all the stuff on a DSLR but don't want to spend so much, I think you're looking at exactly the right thing. To me, these two models scream "entry level amateur." They're exactly what I would recommend for somebody who wants to learn a little about photography and doesn't want to spend a lot of money.

    PaulC and Dad: You've both been shooting longer than I've been alive. Wanna weigh-in here? I feel like I'm a little out of my depth.

  6. I understand the basic physics of photography. F stop, shutter speed, and ISO.The Canon SX30IS f stop goes 3.4 - 5.6, focal length 5 - 60mm. Could I produce a close facsimile of your original BBMB(Beautiful Butterfly on Mini Berries)pic with the SX(and a Flux Capacitor, of course)? Or, am I asking too much from a high end point&shoot?

  7. I'm pretty sure that camera could do that. I was just in Best Buy today and was looking at them. I found that one of them is definitely easier to control (as far as shutterspeed, etc.). But I don't remember which one. Then I went and drooled all over the 60D. The one thing that would make me (and this may not matter to you) not buy the Powershot is that it doesn't record RAW. It shoots in raw (as everything does), but it saves something else. I think. I'm not sure. The Canon site was unhelpful on that subject, and I couldn't figure it out at the store either.

  8. Technical Details

    * Brand Name: Canon
    * Model: SX130IS
    * Optical Sensor Resolution: 12.1 MP
    * Optical Sensor Technology: CCD
    * Optical zoom: 12 x
    * Maximum Aperture Range: F/3.4-5.6
    * Minimum focal length: 5 millimeters
    * Maximum focal length: 60 millimeters
    * Lens Type: Zoom lens
    * Optical Sensor Size: 1/2.3"
    * Included Flash Type: Pop-up flash
    * Display Size: 3.000 inches
    * Light Sensitivity: ISO 100, ISO 800, ISO 400, ISO 200, ISO 80, ISO auto, ISO 1600
    * Image types: JPEG
    * Shooting Modes: Frame movie mode
    * Exposure Control Type: Beach, Kids & pets, Snow, Super vivid, Poster effect, Landscape, Portrait mode, Color swap, Color accent, Fireworks, Low light, Foliage
    * Width: 4.5 inches
    * Height: 2.9 inches
    * Weight: 10.9 Ounces