This is an original, unprocessed RAW image captured a few days ago. The exterior surfaces of our house’s windows and doors are being re-painted and I must thank my wife who spotted the potential in this scene and said I might like to photograph it. I gratefully seized that opportunity. This is a view of an upstairs window that was being painted. The sun was shining on it directly, and what you are seeing are the shadows of the painter and the window frame projected onto a pale yellow window blind that we had left in place to limit the dust that might otherwise have blown into the room during the prepping and painting.
What struck me immediately when looking at this, and other unprocessed files, was the flash of white light radiating from the painter’s glasses across his head. A trick of the light: a small bonus but actually so important to the overall drama of the image.
Usually I have a very clear idea of how I will process an image but in this instance an end point was not immediately obvious. I quite liked the sepia toning but I didn’t want that to be overpowering, but I also could see the obvious potential for a strong B&W image. So After some very minor preliminary work to straighten verticals and horizontal lines I opened the image in my favourite plug in: Nik’s Silver Efex. This is my ‘go-to’ B&W convertor and is part of the Nik collection – free from Google – if you haven’t tried it yet, what’s stopping you?
When you load an image into Silver Efex (from within Photoshop CC, Lightroom or Photoshop Elements) you will find thirty-eight presets shown as thumbnails down the left side of the window. And you can very quickly step down through them to view them all sequentially. Usually one stands out. More often than not I will find a preset that I like and simply click ‘OK’ to return to Photoshop and do a little fine tuning there. Alternatively any preset can be tweaked within the plugin and a border and/or toning applied.
I stepped through the presets with this image and found myself excited by the possibilities but still uncertain of how to proceed. So I saved several versions of the image using a number of presets that I wanted a closer look at and the ones that interested me the most are shown in the gallery below. Click on the first image and then navigate through with the arrow keys. (The differences are actually quite subtle and you may find it difficult to spot the differences within the first two or three, but seen up large they do become much more obvious).
Each image is titled with the name of the Silver Efex preset.
Looking through these images will give you some idea of the potential of Silver Efex and the creative possibilities that it opens up. (The last two presets, you will notice, automatically add a white border). Occasionally I use the plugin purely as a resource to enable me to see, at a glance, a potential line of processing, that I then execute within Photoshop. And that is what I eventually decided to do on this occasion.
And below you will see my final image that I created within Photoshop. I decided that I liked a bit of Sepia toning but a rather subdued version of it, so the image was first adjusted using levels, curves, brightness and contrast and then finally the saturation of the image was amended.
This was an image that, to my mind, had no obvious final end point but I’m happy with the one I have chosen at present. But in a few months time I may decide to re-process it. Processing is always about personal preferences and you may well look at this and decide that you would have processed it entirely differently, or even left the original relatively untouched. What do you think?