Daily Photo – Steph in Black and White

This shot was taken on April 25th as part of a test shoot to try out the home studio for the first time. Stephanie brought over a number of costumes, which we combined with some large patches of fabric I had on hand (both the black silk and reddish-brown/black patterned material she has wrapped around her waist in the shot). Also collaborating on this shoot were Janus Anderson and Christopher Fergusen.

Lighting and Background

  • Zeus head in 60″ softlighter camera right
  • SB800 on floor behind model to light up the background
  • 9′ white paper background, rolled out far enough to cover the floor as well
  • 4′ x 8′ black foam core on each side of the model


  • Shutter: 1/250
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • ISO: 100
  • Camera: Canon EOS 1ds mIII
  • Lens: Canon EF24-70 f/2.8L USM (at 45mm)

Final Shot:

Original Shot:

There’s obviously a pretty big difference between the original and the final, so let’s look at the changes.


  • It was too dark. I boosted exposure about a stop, which was enough to bring up the subject as well as blow out the background. I used the Recovery slider a little bit (+4) to take the extra shine off her arms, cheek and nose (which I got back later in Photoshop).
  • The image felt too yellow/orange, so I knocked the white balance down to 5200 from an initial 6500.
  • Blacks were a little light, so I increased the Blacks slider by 5.
  • I adjusted the tone curve to increase contrast, raising highlights and lowering shadows (+10, +7, -2, -10). That really helped separate her skin tones from what she was wearing, and brightened them up a touch.


  • Removed anything in the background that wasn’t white using the brush tool (set to the same color as the background).
  • I thought this might look best in a horizontal format, with Steph off center to one side. But that would have been impossible in the original shot: the 9′ roll wasn’t wide enough, and the width of the room wouldn’t have accommodated a wider backdrop (along with lights) anyway. So I expanded the image to one side and filled it with white. I actually tried multiple compositions, but preferred the one with Steph to the right because her head and shoulders are turning to the left (into the frame).
  • At this point the color of the shot looked good with just the Lightroom adjustments. But I make a point of looking at other processing looks to see if there’s something that stands out. Converting to black and white looked ok, but I didn’t seem to be getting anything that really jumped out at me no matter how much I mucked with different channels.
  • I had recently purchased Nik Color Efex Pro but hadn’t had a chance to try it out. After sampling a number of different effects, I noticed the infrared filter, with contrast reduced and brightness boosted, produced a black and white effect I really liked. Now I could have gotten there eventually had I twiddled with different channels enough. But this was faster and showed me something I wasn’t previously imagining.

Back to Lightroom

  • Clarity (+5). Probably unnecessary, particularly at this size.
  • Sharpening. Also unnoticeable at this size, but definitely helped when I printed it later.

That’s it. The pseudo infrared filter in post really amped the contrast on the shot, dropping some of the detail out of the shadows and blowing out parts of the face, arms and shoulders. But I’ve noticed that black and white images, or washed out color ones, tend to be more accommodating to that technique. And in the case of this image, really enhanced it.

July 23 2008 02:59 pm | Photography

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