One Way to Control Color: Go Monochrome

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

One of the easiest ways to eliminate the challenge of eliminating color shifts from an image file is to simply to eliminate the color! OK, maybe you think that’s cheating but sometimes a monochrome image is just what you need to focus the attention on the real subject and not the color. And monochrome doesn’t have to mean black & white. The official definition of monochrome is that it’s “a picture done in different shades of a single color,” which in the photo world usually translate into toning.

Here’s a way to produce a monochrome image that takes a color image and transforms it into a more dynamic photograph, at least I hope that’s the case. The original and unretouched portrait of Shea is at right. It was made with a Canon EOS 50D and EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II USM lens with an exposure of 1/100 sec at f/6.3 and ISO 200. That lens has been discontinued but you can pick up a used one on Amazon for $112, as I write this. The EXIF data shows flash was used but other than a tiny catchlight in the subject’s eyes, there appears to be no other effect of using flash.




Next, I used a Selection tool to Copy, Paste and rotate the model’s head to make it appear more square to the camera. Then I cropped into a shape designed to fit a book cover (the publisher had other ideas, see below,) then the portrait was retouched using Clone and Healing Brushes along with the underutilized Dodge and Burn tools.




Next, I converted the photograph into black and white using Silver Efex Pro, which created the first layer (working from bottom to top.)


To add the overall blue tone, I used Color Stylizer filter that’s part of Color Efex Pro. This was followed up with the Glamour Glow filter. Because all of the effects are applied to different layers, you can vary the intensity of each one to produce the desired effect. I turned off the Background (color) layer because I wanted to use the black and white version for the basis of the final image.

In the final portrait, the subject’s red hair and color outfit have been controlled allowing the viewer to focus on her face. Once you start retouching, especially at higher magnifications, you begin see little details that you want to improve but sooner or later you have to quit. Tip: I have a 20-minute rule: If the finished photograph isn’t the way I want it to look after 20 minutes, it’s never going to satisfy me so I start again with another image.

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If you’re interested in learning how I shoot  available light glamour portraits, please pick up a copy of Available Light Glamour Photography which is available new from for $17.43 or used for the giveaway price of $12.79, as I write this. The Kindle price is $16.56 for those preferring a digital format.