I developed the Tone Management System for a single reason. To give me
a systematic, predictive approach to creating black and white images that
allowed the maximum control over tone in order to create the image I
visualized. I set out with seven objectives. There were.
- A consistent method that converts to a pre-chosen black and white
luminance of the photographer's choice.
- After the conversion to black and white, I still had full control of
tone globally, locally (using selections and/or layer masks), by
color range, by
color channel or by targeting tone itself.
- The method was predictive.
- The method was intuitive.
- The method was non-destructive.
- Supports the creation of full black and white images as well as
color/black and white images.
- Most importantly, the method fully supported a visualization approach to
creating a black and white image by giving the photographer the flexibility
to precisely manage tone as desired.
Why a consistent conversion method to a pre-chosen luminance? For the
same reason film photographers, both color and black and white, use a limited
set of films. If film photographers used a different make (Kodak, Fuji,
Agfa, Ilford, etc) and type (print, slide, color, black and white) and brand
(Ektachrome, Velvia, T-Max, Scala, etc) of film every time they took
photographs, it would be extremely difficult for us to learn the subtle
characteristics of any film. The same is true in digital photography.
When digitally converting a color image to a black and white image, starting at
a known luminance helps us learn the subtle behaviors of digital black and white
conversion so, over time, we can get the most from our images. The
consistency gives us a level of predictability that increases our control over
the image making process.
The Tone Management System allows us to choose the black and white luminance
that matches our definition of tone. The three luminance options in the
Tone Management System are Measured, Perceived (also known as grayscale) or Lab.
The choice of luminance is up to the photographer.
Which pre-chosen luminance is used is not as important as the Tone Management
System's ability to fully support adjusting tone globally, locally, by color
range, by color channel or by targeting tone itself after the conversion
to black and white. Changing tone locally is the ability to use the
various Adobe Photoshop selection tools and layer masks to isolate the image
'geographically' and then using controls such as Levels and Curve to adjust
Yes, you read correctly. I want to be able to manage tone by color
in a black and white image. Managing by color includes both
color ranges and
color channels. Managing tone by color is not new to black and white
photographers. Using colored filters to darken a blue sky or green foliage
on black and white film has been used for decades. The one caveat to using
color ranges and color channels in the Tone Management System is the original
image capture must be in color, either color film or sensor. If the
capture is not in color, there is no color to manage.
Targeting by tone itself is one of the strengths of digital photography.
The two primary Photoshop controls for adjusting tone are Levels and Curves.
Each allows us to select specific sections of the tonal range, such as
highlights or shadows, and change them as desired.
Non-destructive techniques are any computer based image editing technique
that changes an image's appearance without permanently altering the image's
pixels. Non-destructive techniques allow us to undo a change, even years
after it was done. The Tone Management System is fully non-destructive.
Full color and full black and white are the most common types of prints
photographers make. However, many photographers enjoy making color/black
and white images. I wanted a method that supported their needs without
Color/black and white images are not the same as traditional hand-colored black
and white prints, where the entire image has been painted, typically with pastel
colors. Nor are they
duo tones. Color/black and white images are mostly black and white
with a few select objects in the image in full color.
To see a quick example of a color/black and white image,
Black and White with Color page. There is a link to bring you back
to this same place.
The end result of the Tone Management System is not an image whose tones are
an accurate replica of the scene at the time the photograph was made, unless
that is what the photographer wants. The purpose is to allow us to manage
tone in a predictable and controllable manner so that we can create the image we
visualized. Simply stated, visualization is the art of seeing the final
image in one's mind and then using traditional and digital photographic
techniques to create it.
Table 1 below shows the concept of the Tone Management System. Table 1
simulates Photoshop layers. The bottom most layer is the color image.
Above this layer are one or more Photoshop adjustment layers that perform
selected adjustments to tone globally or by targeting a color range and/or color
channel. For example, I could use a Levels adjustment layer to darken a
blue sky by either selecting the blue channel in the Levels dialog box or by
creating a selection using Select > Color Range to select the blue colors and
applying the Levels adjustment to the selection.
Above these adjustment layers is a single adjustment layer that converts the
color image to a black and white image. The Tone Management System allows
multiple ways of accomplishing this based on our preference for what tone is.
Above the black and white conversion layer are none, one or more additional
adjustment layers that continue to allow us to manage tone. These
adjustment layers allow us to perform global adjustments or selected adjustments
by either targeting black and white luminance, or by making 'geographic'
selections. The final layer allows us to colorize our black and white
image, if desired, to simulate traditional black and white toning.
|TONE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
|TRADITIONAL FILM ANALOGY
|Black and white Toning
|Chemical darkroom toning
|Adjustment layers to adjust black and white tone
globally, locally using selections or by targeting tone itself
||Dodge and burn techniques, using different types
and grades of paper, etc.
|Adjustment layer to convert color image to black
and white image
|Using black and white film
|Adjustment layers to adjust tone by color range
and/or color channel
||Using colored lens filters to darken/lighten
areas of the photograph
|Digital capture via camera or scanner
|The scene being photographed
Table 1. Tone Management Concept
The submenu links at the top of this page will take us to the web pages that
describe the various Tone Management System methods that I have devised.
I recommend everyone read the Perceived/Measured Luminance and the Sample Images
sections first. Then read the four Tone Management System methods.
They are: Measured Luminance, Grayscale (perceived luminance), %K and Lab.
Afterward, the Example section takes us through the full conversion, tonal
adjustment and toning of a color RGB image using the MCL method.
Afterwards, there is a short test to help with comprehension.
As a reminder, the goal of the Tone Management System is not to give you a
black and white image that is an accurate replica of the tone in the scene or
object being photographed, unless that is what you want. Rather, its
purpose is to give you a structure that starts you off at a pre-chosen luminance
of your choice and then gives you the flexibility to target and change tone as