Converting color concert photos to black & white with DxO FilmPack 5
In collaboration with Christophe Gressin
In this tutorial, we will give you some advice about taking concert photos and we will teach you how to process them into black & white. In particular, you will learn how to use the Tone curve to apply a specific rendering to your images.
To follow this tutorial, you will need:
- DxO FilmPack 5
- Some photos in RAW, JPEG or TIFF format.
1- Shooting concert photos
Taking photos at concerts presents certain specific challenges that are not always easy to understand. Here is some advice to get you started or to help you improve in this area so that you will start from the best base possible when using your DxO tools to process your photos.
To the question that is generally the first to be asked, i.e., “what settings should I use?,” the reply is, “there are no ideal settings.”
As a matter of fact, a great deal depends on the lighting conditions, which can vary enormously from venue to venue, the time of day (outdoor festivals), and the type of lights used. And a lot depends on your own equipment, too, whether you have a very bright fixed-focal lens (e.g., f/1.4) or a zoom with a variable aperture, which will require you to set your ISO higher. Finally, a lot depends on what you’re trying to capture — a detail, an expression, an atmosphere…
In every instance, you will have to cope with many different parasitic elements: the audience (depending on your position), equipment (microphones in particulier), the artists’ movements, and lighting variations (in terms of both brightness and colors).
The choice of focal length will depend on where you are and what you are trying to capture. You should nonetheless tend to choose fixed focal-length lenses because of their brightness. Don’t overdo high ISO: learn the limits of your equipment, taking into account the correction possibilities that DxO tools offer, and don’t try to go beyond what is reasonable.
Automatic mode is not recommended, but you can work in priority aperture mode (A or Av). You will most often choose the widest aperture to shoot at, but be aware that the depth of field is at risk of being reduced (depending on your position and on your focal length): some of the people in a photo with several people in it may not end up being perfectly sharp.
In terms of measuring exposure, while matrix (or evaluative) metering is suitable for photographing the general scene, you can advantageously use spot metering for shooting close-ups of the artist and optimizing the exposure of his or her face.
As for white balance, depending on the concert and the venue, you will probabaly want to keep the automatic measurement, rather than have to adjust to all of the changes of color in the lighting (which is why it we generally strongly recommend that you shoot in RAW so as to be able to correct the dominants when processing).
2- Processing concert photos into black & white
Step 1: Convert the photo into black & white
With DxO FilmPack, you have the option of converting your photo by choosing from among a number of Black & white filmpresets, or by simply using the conversion button available via Change image settings .
For our example, we will choose the Fuji Neopan™ Acros 100 film preset, which comes closest to the rendering that we want to obtain.
Step 2: Apply a color filter
The color filter you use when processing in black & white lets you intensify the zones that correspond to the color of the filter you choose, and diminish the intensity of the other parts of the image, and thus can be very useful for reinforcing the overall contrast of your photo.
You can find detailed explanations about the color filter features and choices in our tutorial Converting color photos to black and white with DxO FilmPack 5, Expert level.
In our example photo, we are looking to intensify the rays of light produced by the spotlight in the background, so we will apply the Purplish blue filter, available in the Lens effects section. The filter density is set by default at 100.
Step 3: Use the Tone curve to adjust the black point and the white point
We will use the Tone curve, available in the Development section, to give a “matte” (or less shiny) finish to our image: the blacks will be a bit less deep and the whites will be a little less luminous, thus creating the effect of being printed on matte paper.
The Tone curve will let us correct point-by-point the tone of all of the pixels in the image: along the horizontal axis are the pixels to correct, and the vertical axis represents the corrected tone.
So in order to clarify or brighten areas containing a particular tone, you will need to select the corresponding point on the Tone curve and move it upwards. Let’s choose to lighten the dark tones (the associated values here are 69 | 102):
Note the evolution of the histogram after this correction.
The values that appear when you position the control point correspond to the before and after brightness values (between 0 and 255).
You can add as many control points as you would like. To delete a control point, left-click on it with the mouse; to reset them, use the button under the Tone curve.
To achieve the matte rendering that we’re looking for, we are going to increase the tone of the black points and reduce those for the white. To do so, set the tone points currently at 0–30, to 255–230.
The Tone curve will then look like this:
Here is the rendering you achieve:
Note the changes to the histogram:
Since the result lacks contrast, we will add some intermediate control points to bring the curve back to its initial position with respect to the mid-tones, and thus restore some contrast to the entire image.
Set the tone points that are at 70–75 to the values of 180 to 200. Notice that we have chosen to brighten the overall image by remaining slightly above the initial curve.
We end up with the following histogram:
As expected, the rendering has produced noticeable contrast.
The values don’t need to be reproduced exactly in order to achieve this kind of rendering, and you can adopt your own settings to obtain the level of contrast that suits you best.
Step 4: Finalize your image
To finalize your image, adjust the Micro-contrast, available in the Contrast palette in the Development section: in this case, it will strengthen the density of the light rays a bit more. Be careful not to push the slider too far so as to adversely affect the rendering of the artist’s face. Set the slider here to +25.
Finally you can use the settings in the Graphical effects tab to add a creative touch (texture, light leak) or a frame, to suit your own tastes.
3- Applying the rendering to a series of photos
To apply the same corrections to other photos you take at the same concert, or to photos taken at other concerts, all you need to do is save them. To do so, create a Custom preset by right-clicking on the image and choosing Save settings as preset.
In the next window, name your rendering and save it.
Your preset can then be applied to any of the images you subsequently open in DxO FilmPack 5. You can also apply the preset directly to a collection of photos by clicking on Export and then selecting Batch processing from the main menu (upper left of the UI).
A dialog window will open in which you can select your custom preset, the photos to which you want to apply the preset (which you can add by clicking on the icon), and the output parameters.
Click on Process to apply the preset!
Photo credit: Christophe Gressin