Tony Paine

Tony Paine

Mississauga Camera Club

Tony Paine is the 2-time Club Champion of Mississauga Camera Club, Competition Director at Etobicoke Camera Club and a contributing member to the Toronto Focal Forum.  About 40% of his work is in B&W.  See more examples at

Quick Photoshop Tips for B&W

Black and White is used to add drama and emphasize the structural design of a well-executed image.  My 3 hour B&W Workshop covers 10 Tips & Tricks to make better images (most of which also work in color).  Let me give you a couple of the best quick tips.

Half Dome

 Image: Half Dome View from Shady Lookout

Tip #1: Improve the apparent 3-dimensionality of any image with “Poor Man’s PerceptoolTM(courtesy of; George also has a great free natural HDR program “ALW HDR” for CS3/4/5).  PerceptoolTM is a downloadable program that costs about $100 US, but is also only available for CS3/4/5.  What I call Poor Man’s Perceptool is a free Action you can download (which does a better job on highlights than the paid version), comprised of the following simple steps:

1.       Select the upper layer in your image stack (or the base layer if you just opened an image).

2.       Start recording the Action – call it “GDW Poor Man’s Perceptool”

3.       Press Alt-Control-Shift-E (PC) to generate a new layer representing a copy of all the underneath layers.  Name the new layer “Copy”

4.       Press Control-J to make a copy of the Copy layer.  Name the new Layer “Poor Man’s Perceptool”

5.       Apply a 250 pixel Hi Pass filter to the PMP layer (Filter > Other > Hi Pass > 250 Radius).

6.       Select the Copy layer and press CTRL ALT 2 (PC; or Command Opt 2 Mac) to load the Luminosity as a selection.

7.       Click on the PMP layer; Click Add Mask (rectangular icon in Layers Palette with circle in the middle).  This should put a B&W version of the image in the mask of the Copy layer.

8.       Set the blending mode of the PMP layer to Soft Light.

9.       Stop recording the Action

10.   Delete the “Copy” Layer – I use it to allow multiple under layers.  With only an image layer to start, you will get an error message running the Action, but simply press “Continue” to ignore it.

In use, you adjust the PMP layer opacity (50% is typical for color images; 100% for B&W), or turn off the mask if you like.  The result should be deeper shadows and brighter whites emphasizing edges – a more 3-dimensional look.  I use this little trick (plus George’s Edge Burn Action to create a subtle vignette) on almost every image where it is important to develop a sense of depth – in both Color and B&W.

Mississauga Moonrise

Image: Mississauga Moonrise

Tip #2.  A snappy B&W conversion.  Anybody who looks at the luminance mask (Shift-Click on it) on the PMP layer will recognize the mask image is a very snappy B&W in its own right.  The same B&W conversion can be realized in 4 steps (which I also program into an Action):

1.       Save the image then flatten and convert to LAB color.

2.       Duplicate the base layer.

3.       Select the duplicate layer and perform the 250 pixel Hi Pass Filter on it.  Rename it “High Pass 250”.  Set the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

4.       Add a Hue Saturation Layer and Set the Saturation to Zero.

This is all I did to the color head shot of me at the top of the article.  You may dial down the opacity of the High Pass Layer to taste, but at 100% the result is the same as the mask in Poor Man’s Perceptool.  Usually I flatten at this point and convert back to RGB because I want to work B&W in RGB to add color toning for effect or to offset unwanted printer/paper tones.

Peruvian Encounter

Image: Peruvian Encounter

Once you have the Actions in place, it is a simple matter to run them with a single click and then dial down the opacity of the resulting layers to boost your image potential.