Monday, February 06, 2006

Converting Your Photos to Black and White

By Christina VanGinkel

Browsing through some recent snapshots that I have taken over the past several months, I came across several that I liked, but for one reason or another, something seemed off about them. I could not really pinpoint the problem with them, just that they seemed too busy somehow, too much color, something distracting in the main image itself, even too many patterns going on. The thing was though, out of these, there were several that I would have liked to use in some scrapbook layouts, especially as I looked through and refreshed my memory of the days and moments I had taken each one. Instead of just writing them all off as lost causes, I decided to open them into a basic graphics program, to see if there was some small feature or two, which I could tweak in each of them, to make them become more of what I saw through the lens when I originally snapped them.

Surprisingly, I fixed every single photo save for one of them by converting them to black and white, zooming in on the main focal point in a couple, and using a soft feathering on the edge of two of them. The simple fact of stripping them of color alone, made each of them focus back onto what I had originally seen when I actually snapped each one. For example, one picture is of my young grandson as he was falling asleep on our living room floor. He had been building a camp out of blankets, and we had borrowed a couple blankets from his uncle's room for this. Each blanket had a different pattern going on, and such a variety of colors, it was almost enough to make one nauseous! Dressed in a t-shirt with a pattern on it, and sitting on the carpet amongst the blankets, with our couch in the background just made it overkill, all the way around. Yet the soft look of his face as his eyes were falling shut was what I had seen when I had reached for my camera that day. My eyes never noticed all the colors and patterns until I looked at the actual print. I actually used all three effect to take this picture from 'uh oh' to the 'oh so sweet' that I had originally seen through the lens.

By zooming in on his face, softening the edge of the cropped photo, and then converting it to black and white, I ended up with one of the most adorable picture of him. It captured his closing eyes, accentuating his long lashes, and the baby features that still lingered on his ever-changing toddler face. From what had originally been not much more than a maze of color and patterns, I ended up with a photo that was so adorable, I enlarged it to an 8 x 10, and framed it to hang on the wall. The minute my daughter saw it, she asked me for a copy.

Thanks to the age of digital, many photos that would have once ended up on the cutting room floor, or dumped into a box, to be passed over time and again as we looked through them for those worthy of finding space in a photo album or scrapbook, can now rise to the occasion. Some can even find a place of honor, framed and on the wall. Converting a photo to black and white can let the focal point stay the focal point, and let all the distracting features fade away.

I had such good luck with these new photos; I have decided to go back through several packs of old photos. Photos that I have looked through several times, some more times, than I can count, and see if there is any that do stand out when I envision them without all their distractions.

If you thought you had the perfect shot, but once it was developed or you opened the digital file, you were not so impressed, do not immediately assume all is lost. Take the time to consider if a simple conversion to black and white, maybe with the addition of a crop can do the same for your photos as it did for several of mine.

1 comment:

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