'Photoshop for Photographers'
How to add dynamic clipping warnings to Photoshop

There are two types of clipping you probably try to avoid introducing into your images during post-production: luminosity clipping (when the brightest areas of an image become white, or when the darkest areas become black), and channel clipping (when the data within an individual channel becomes compromised). Both forms – unless you've made a deliberate decision to clip your data – are something to avoid.

As you'll probably know, Photoshop doesn't make this easy. The only tool that provides direct feedback on any clipping within an image is the histogram, but it isn't completely accurate, nor is it dynamic: it updates after you implement a change rather that providing feedback during an adjustment. And while there are quite a few ways that allow you to accurately measure clipping – more of which below – none of the methods are either especially convenient or automatic.

Fortunately, there is a solution – a way to add a set of warnings that will provide real-time feedback on any shadow, highlight, and channel highlight clipping within an image – and I'll show you how to do so in the remainder of this article.

[watch the videos after the jump]

But that's just Photoshop!

Over the years I've had quite a few protracted and often heated discussions about the role of post-production in photography, normally with people who seem to have a rooted objection to images that have been radically transformed.

"But that's not photography, that's just Photoshop!" has been a relatively common criticism of some of my work.

It's a complex debate – especially as it plays out differently within different areas of photography – and I certainly don't intend to provide a complete answer here, but an image I've been working on recently prompted the following.

Which images should you convert to black and white?

I've spent a lot of time over the last few months concentrating on black and white photography, mostly because I was developing and recording my new course for Udemy: The Art of Black and White Photography, partly because I'll be running a one-day black and white photography and postproduction workshop during the GPP Fotoweekend training event in Dubai in November, but also because it's a form of photography I find enduringly fascinating.

For my Udemy course I cover a whole range of topics: how to use Photoshop to best convert an image to black and white, what makes some images easier to convert than others, how to make a range of selective adjustments using curves and masks, and so on. And I suspect it will be much the same for my GPP workshop.

The question I don't cover in much detail is the one I've used for the title of this post: which images should you convert to black and white? In other words, I don't want to talk about how to convert an image to black and white, I want to focus on why you should consider doing so.

So, why is it that some images look great in colour, but bland and uninteresting in black and white, while others are considerably more striking?

It's that question I want to focus on here.

Critique Slot Screencast #7

If you're a subscriber to our photography and post-production tutorials you'll be familiar with our Critique Slot Screencasts. These are critiques of our subscribers' images, normally about an hour long, and split into two sections. In the first part I work through and critique the edit supplied by one of our subscribers – explaining the changes that were made, offering alternative solutions, and so on – while in the second I re-edit the image from the original RAW file.

For this image, supplied by Doug Stroud, the processing centred around Doug's creative aims. Specifically, whether it was possible to create an increased tension between the foreground and background: the happy/innocent children at play, offset against a moody and ominous background.

If you'd be interested in taking a look at a low-res version (730px wide rather than 1280px), and finding out how I would process this image, read on …