Colours into tones in black & white

This is my learning log for TAOP exercise 3-4.

The purpose of the exercise is to investigate how photographer filters works – or their digital version, the luminosity mixer in Lightroom’s B&W conversion panel. I was asked to set up a still life dominated by red, yellow, blue and orange, and “have a play” with it to see the effect of manipulating the sliders. The picture was also to contain a grey card, presumably to prove that it’s only the tones that gets affected by the B&W mixer and not the overall exposure.

I still had a lemon and a chilli from exercise 3-2, and from my outing yesterday I had a gorgeous orange leaf which I hope to put to use towards the chapter assignment. So I grabbed a blue salt shaker and a grey Nikon battery and arranged the still life on the granite counter top. Bad choice of background, as I kept getting reflections of the ceiling and the cabinet next to table.

Here is the original picture before I started to manipulate it in Lightroom:

Fig 1: Original colour version

Fig 1: Original colour version

At first I just clicked the “black and white” button in Lightroom’s “basic” panel header. This is an “auto” function where Lightroom analyses the picture, adds a bit of magic sauce, and comes up with a default rendition.

Fig 2: Lightroom's default greyscale rendering

Fig 2: Lightroom’s default greyscale rendering

Comparing Fig 1 against Fig 2, there are a few observations to make. Unsurprisingly yellow is shown as very bright, remembering from the previous exercise that Goethe assigned it brightness value 9. Orange is also shown quite bright, again in line with Goethe’s value of 8. The green stalk and the red chilli have very similar tones which also matches what Goethe predicted by assigning them each the value 6. The blue appear slightly brighter than green and red, which is not in line with what I should have expected based on Goethe’s values.

After this, I made four additional copies, where I maxed out the luminosity slider for each of the colours yellow, orange, red and blue. The results show that I can make any colour of my choosing appear white in the black and white rendering.

Fig 3: 100% luminosity from yellow

Fig 3: 100% luminosity from yellow

100% luminosity from orange

Fig 4: 100% luminosity from orange

Fig 5: 100% luminosity from red

Fig 5: 100% luminosity from red

Fig 6: 100% luminosity from blue

Fig 6: 100% luminosity from blue

Finally, after these almost mechanical renderings, I spent some time moving the individual sliders back and forth until I came up with my preferred black and white version, where I adjusted the channels like this:

Red: – 27 (to make the chili less visible)
Orange + 89 (to boost the orange leaf)
Yellow -60 (to darken the lemon)
Green +53 (to lighten the chilli-stalk)
Aqua: -100 (tiny effect on shaker)
Blue -9 (darken shaker slightly)
Purple 0 (no effect at all)
Magenta +31 (upper left leaf)

Fig 7: My preferred B&W version

Fig 7: My preferred B&W version

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