Adventures in Photoshop: Dramatic B&W Portraits

OK! I keep posting here and saying “oh, I neglect this blog so much – I’ll be posting here more soon!” And then I neverrrr do until, like, a month later.

If you’ve read my bio, I’m currently taking an online photography course (which I’m finally nearly finished with!). Two recent units were on portraiture and black and white photography. Alongside taking this course, I also got Photoshop CC a year ago and have been teaching myself how to use it. Considering all these things, and also that my posts on here are often quite same-y, I thought maybe today I’ll change it up a bit – and post about what I’m learning in Photoshop!

I’ve been incorporating what I’m learning on my course into my personal stuff. Sadly I don’t know anyone who would model for me, so I’m using my annoying face. Soz. So, here we go! Here’s how I make dramatic black and white portraits.

Here’s the original photo I’ll be using for this how-to thingy:

2016-08-05 (16)

I imported the photo into Photoshop, then realised that it may not be the best photo to convert to black and white: There aren’t many deep shadows that would make for an interesting contrast with my ridiculously pale skin.

So I went about fixing that; I selected the burn tool from my toolbar, and drew over the areas that needed deeper shadows. I brushed over the left side of my face, and made darker shadows along all of the right places. I also burned the heck outta my hair, especially on the left, where I’ve made it fade to black.

Original photo plus burn:

2016-08-11 (7)

So the colour looks unnatural, but more vivid, which is good, because it’ll mean a bigger contrast in black and white. So let’s convert!

Image converted to black and white:

2016-08-11 (8)

Imo, these shadows are much more dramatic and effective, yet still don’t look too over the top. And as you can see, I’ve continued making adjustments to the original layer, with the black and white layer on top. I darkened some more areas with the burn tool until I was satisfied with them, and also adjusted the curves of the image to add a little more texture to it.

For reference, this was the general setting for my burn tool when making final adjustments (on another image, but it’s the same for most I’ve done):

2016-08-11 (3)I had a really low exposure, so that any changes I made were subtle. If I wanted to darken an area a lot, I simply went over it multiple times. Brushing over with a big exposure would make the changes too obvious.

So, here we go! Final image:

2016-08-05 (16)

I hope that provided a cool insight into how I make my selfies look pretentious and dramatic work in Photoshop! Scroll down to see some more portraits I’ve done in the same fashion:

2016-08-05 (19)self

2016-08-05 (23)2016-08-05 (23)

2016-08-05 (17)2016-08-05 (17)

What do you think of the process I use, and how do you create your black and white images? CC welcomed 🙂


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