In our last blog, we were playing around with examples of high contrast images. Today, I'm going to show you how easily you can convert images to high contrast, using the most common tool amongst our viewers - Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. As I said last time, you get the best results with simple images. This re-enactor was part of a demonstration of Civil War artillery at the Gettysburg battlefield.
The great thing about using Lightroom is the non-destructive nature of the program. You can always go back to your original image if you don't like the changes. If you want to keep separate versions of the image, start with creating a virtual copy. Virtual copies allow you to have all the versions of your image side-by-side in your database. The virtual copies do not create equivalent size files on your hard drive until you export them for other uses.
So, let's get started. There are many different ways to accomplish this effect; this is the workflow I use. If you don't like my method, you can do it in any order you want. Go into the Develop module of Lightroom. In the Basic panel, on the right, push the Contrast slider all the way to 100. Scroll done to the Tone Curve panel, and set the Point Curve to "Strong Contrast." In the HSL/Color/B&W panel, click on "B&W." Here are some screen captures of the first three steps:
The image now looks like this:
The image conversion is not finished, yet. I want to simplify the background, and the actor's face is too dark. At this point, you adjust the sliders in the HSL/Color/B&W panel to get the final version of the image. My preferred method is to use the adjustment tool to adjust the sliders. Click on the tool, and move it over the portion of the image you want to change.
Click and Hold and move the tool higher, and the tones will lighten. Click and Hold and move the tool down, and the tones will become darker. The sliders will adjust as you move the tool. The final high contrast image is below. If you want to add sepia toning or something similar, there are presets in the left side panel for that. Experiment with them to your tastes.
If you like the effect, try it on other images. The more you practice, the faster you'll get to your final image. I think you'll have a good time experimenting with high contrast.