Neat background trick for B&W Portraits

February 10, 2008

This is something I sort of stumbled on recently, but I’m using it more and more.    When I’m shooting a portrait that I intend to use in B&W, I shoot on a mid-blue background (rather than the usual grey, black or white).  Then in Lightroom (or Camera Raw), I convert to Greyscale.  I can now use the blue slider to totally control the tone of the background, adjusting it from blank white to total black, or anywhere in between.  Here’s an example:

  •  Original color shotBlue Slider darkens bkgndBlue Slider lightens bkgndbluebkgnd-5.jpg

One other little trick, or variation:  Rather than hitting the Greyscale mode, leave the shot in color.  Reduce the saturation of all the colors to zero (making the shot B&W).  Then dial up the Blue Saturation slider a bit.  Now play with the Blue Hue slider to shift the color of the background.  Like this:

  •  Alternative

This all works because skin contains no blue tones (at least on most earthlings), so you are able to control the skin tones and the background independently.  HAVE FUN PLAYING!

    One comment

    1. A related tip I’ve come across is to use the Black & White filter in Photoshop CS3, with the layer in Luminosity mode, so that you can separately adjust the luminance of the red, cyan, green,magenta, blue and yellow regions independantly using the convenience of scrubby sliders. Just click the region of the photo yiou want to adjust, and slide left or right.

      The Hue & Saturation and Selective Colour layers allow adjusting lumninance, but both are clumsy, and neither allows you to click on the picture to alter whatever colour is there.

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