Learn how to add DRAMA to your images

Guest post by Mitch Anolik

Mitch Anolik and his lovely wife Nathalie have joined us on a couple of our photo tours in Europe over the past few years.

Mitch is a gifted fine art photographer and here he’ll introduce you to his thoughts on the impact of B&W photography and also shares techniques for adding dramatic effects to his images.

See more of Mitch’s images on Instagram @mitchellanolik

From Dr. Google: Highkey lighting (or post-production) reduces the lighting ratio in the scene, meaning there’s less contrast between the darker tones and the brighter areas. Alternatively, Lowkey lighting has greater contrast between the dark and light areas of the image with a majority of the scene in shadow. Mitch uses both approaches for full impact.

And here is Mitch:

On the Power of B&W

As a photographer, I explore lines, shapes, light, and textures. Often abiding by the principle that less is more, I aim to reduce the image to its essence. In this venture, it often seems easier and more fruitful to opt for monochrome rather than color.

A Photographer’s Evolution

I’ve come full circle. In my early days with photography, I had a darkroom and an SLR camera. B&W prints were my thing using PanX and TriX film. I lost my darkroom to my two children. Space was a premium at that time.

I didn’t resume photography until the early 2000s and became obsessed with Velvia slide film. The colors were so vivid and vibrant. I was not alone in this realm. Many a photographer made Velvia a popular option.

I converted reluctantly to digital in about 2006, concerned about its quality. Did it measure up to color slides? I determined it did and continued in color with little consideration of B&W.

From B&W to Color and Back

Exploring lines, shapes, light, and textures, I noticed that B&W often made it easier to direct the viewer’s eye with my control of light and lines. Color often, not always, became a distraction.

To this present day, I still start in color and leave it as such if I’m pleased. If I think that the image has potential, but am not satisfied, I am always experimenting. I play around with options in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop.

The Process

I do the initial rough processing in Adobe Camera Raw via Bridge.  (Or use Lightroom which has the same tools as ACR)

Thereafter I process in Photoshop and start converting to B&W by reducing the Saturation to zero and slightly increasing the Vibrance.

My next step is to use the Brightness/Contrast layer in PS and optimize the balance of blacks, whites, and grays. This also creates the overall mood and tone of the image.

The next major step involves the Selective Color layer. This is where I select portions of the image (rather than the entire image) to enhance the lightness, darkness, and hues of grays to create the optimal degree of contrast. It is the options in the Selective Color layer that allows me to direct the viewer’s eye to the brightest areas. I stressed the importance of not converting to B&W in ACR or Lightroom.  If done so, it eliminates the ability to use the Selective Color layer in Photoshop. PS recognizes it as a monochrome image and disables the Selective Color option layer in the black and white sliders.

I use the Black/White/Neutral sliders in Selective Color. The latter allows me to control the local changes more easily. I may even go back and forth between the Selective Color layer and the Brightness/Contrast layer multiple times in particular areas of the image. I may even eliminate large swaths of the image completely to accentuate my control of the viewer’s eye. Large areas in the image can be converted to black or white using the curves layer manually.

In summary, I go from:

    1. Adobe Camera Raw (in color) to Photoshop
    2. Vibrance/Saturation
    3. Brightness/Contrast
    4. Selective Color

Lone House

Big Sur Pyramids

Lone House and Big Sur Pyramids are two examples where conversion to monochrome controls the viewer’s eye. The range of black and white makes the image more dynamic.

Zigzag Fence

In this image, eliminating large swaths of gray around and within the subject directs the viewer’s eye. You can move the curves layer manually to exaggerate the contrast.

Birds on the move | BEFORE

Birds on the move | AFTER

This shows the value of monochrome by comparing it to the original color interpretation. Color is a distraction here.

NYC HiRise

Here we move in the other direction. Everything in the image is black except the portion I want the viewer to see.

We hope that you’ve enjoyed this post and are inspired by Mitch. Have fun experimenting with these great ideas!