Black and White conversion- Greg Gorman Method

Article by Dhaval Shah

Today, photographers constantly update themselves, their equipments, softwares, workflow etc. However, certain styles in photography may never lose their charm, however techniques used to achieve those styles may be updated. Black and white Photography, for instance, was initially the only way photographs were taken, however over a period of time as photography evolved into colour, and then from film to digital, the style has yet sustained being a photographer’s fancy!

This article explains Black and White Conversion for Digital Photography – with the Greg Gorman* Method. This method is based on luminousity of the image and produces images that are crisp, have a wonderful tonal range and are overall beautiful!

Step 1. Open an image in Photoshop preferably in 16 bit.

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Step 2. Go to the Image Menu, select Mode > Lab Colour. Lab colour is a mode in Photoshop that separates the Lightness of the image from the colours (seen in the steps below).

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Step 3. Go to the Channels palette and click the lightness channel. (Channels a and b contain the colour details)

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Step 4. Now go back to the image menu, select Mode > Grayscale and thus it’ll discard all the colour information.

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Step 5. Hold Command/Control on the keyboard and click on the gray channel, thus making a selection of the highlights.

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Step 6. Under the Select Menu, click Inverse. This will inverse the selection to the Shadows.

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Step 7. Go to the Image Menu, select mode > RGB colour.

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Step 8. In the Layer Menu, choose New Fill Layer > Solid Colour.

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Step 9. Select a colour from the colour picker depending on the tones you wish to see on your final image.

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Step 10. Go to the layer’s palette, and change the blending mode to multiply.

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Step 11. You can change the opacity of the new fill layer depending on your likes and dislikes.

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Step 12. You can also change the colour of the fill layer incase you wish to do so by double-clicking on the layer.

Step 13. You can also add curves or levels adjustment layer to deepen the image. ( here we have used curves to increase local contrast, enhance the shadows and darken the lips to bring out more separation)

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Step 14. Hold shift+alt(option)+Ctrl(command)+ E to merge all the visible layers to a new layer.

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Step 15. Change the blending mode of this layer to Overlay and reduce its opacity to 20%.

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Step 16. Go to Filter > Other > Highpass, and set the radius to 50pixels.

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Step 17. Double-click on the new layer to see layer properties, bring the black point arrow inwards to 70, Alt/option click on it to split it into two small arrows and move one half to 50. Now, bring the white arrow inwards to 185, Alt/option click on it as before, and move one half to 205.

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Before and After:

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Your Black and White Image is ready.

The numbers and adjustments given here are just guidelines. Feel free to tweak them to suit your liking !

*Greg Gorman is a celebrated Photographer known for his celebrity portraits and style of work that is unique and pathbreaking,
especially his black and whites. He has developed his own style of photography over a period of four decades and has also directed
Ad-films, music videos etc.

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