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Black & white items

If you've studied the section of the course where I explained the problem of transferring images via the web, you must already be aware of the difficulties that await you on the perilous trail of catalogue retouching. When people see images on their monitors and other devices, they might and will perceive the color and tone differently, and it’s nigh impossible to predict how exactly things will look for them. But because we know and expect that, we try to make as many people satisfied with the quality of our images as possible. How can we do that? By estimating an average picture on an average customer's monitor.

We know that most people don’t have expensive monitors. Even retouchers are not eager to invest in something like that. And we know that contrast is a huge issue with simple monitors, as many details in shadows and highlights might not be visible at all. A lot of people work and live in rooms with windows, and when sunlight reaches their monitors, they do the most natural thing in this case: set brightness to 100%. And when that makes them not able to see white objects on white background, they push their laptop screens away from their faces and that’s the trick. On the contrary, new monitors tend to be more contrasted than the old ones. Advertisements boast that they can show you a truly black color, which means more contrast. What does that mean to us?

Simply said, some people will see dark things as too dark, and bright things as too bright. Others will see the same dark things as not dark enough, and bright things as too dull. If you work for the online catalogues, you can’t make black things look black and white things look white, because you’ll get complaints from customers, complaints that say: “Can’t see a thing there!” or “White things seem to merge with the background”. But if you make black things look dark gray and white things look gray, you’ll get complaints as well, and you’ll get pestered by your management as well, that the images are not lively, they are dull and bleak. Seems like a stalemate, isn’t it?

You have to accept the fact that you cannot satisfy everyone, not with the amount of distortion that occurs when you transfer images via the web. And then, our task is to find a balance between too much contrast and not enough contrast. I know exactly how to do that because I’ve dealt with many images over the years. As I worked in one of the biggest online stores in Russia, I facilitated the production of millions of images. I know how they need to look to cause complaints. I know how they need to look to satisfy pretty much everybody, and I’ll show you how to retouch black and white items right here, in this section of the course.

Overall contrast

If you’ve been retouching for a while, you know how important contrast is. Everyone wants contrast. Our eyes, or I’d better say, our brains love contrast. But not to the extent where you start losing information in shadows or highlights, of course. In the section of the course dedicated to Adobe Camera Raw color correction, you’ve learned the importance of histogram stretching while making sure that no clipping occurs with your images. But if you try to adjust the darkest and brightest areas of the image, you’ll notice that ACR is actually a quite lousy tool, as it tends to alter the whole image.

This is the reason why I strongly object against using it to cope with the black & white problem. Both "Blacks" and "Whites" sliders will be affecting the whole image despite the names. And when you pull them too far, it ruins the overall contrast, which is something we’re supposed to establish and maintain. So, as much as I love ACR, I hate the idea of doing anything but the overall color and tone correction. Why? Because we lose contrast, and if you use ACR to lighten the shadows and darken the highlights, the preset will be inappropriate for any images except those full of black and white items. If you apply it to regular images, you’ll just ruin them. So instead of doing that, we’ll just get some decent contrast and avoid moving all these sliders too much. And if there are some images that require additional work, if there are some white or black items there, we’ll deal with them separately, in Photoshop. I'll show you how.

And don't forget to download the respective action set from the shop.

Next: White


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