Monday, April 15, 2013

How To "Split-Filter" Black And White Photographs Using Paint.NET

Wrecked - Tehachapi, California
I posted yesterday about how to create vintage-looking color photographs using the free photo-editing software Paint.NET. Now I will show you how to make "split-filter" black-and-white images using this same program.

First, the split-filter technique comes from the days of the darkroom. Basically, you expose the photo paper twice, once with a low-contrast filter and once with a high-contrast filter. This way you retain details in the highlights and shadows while having a contrasty image.
Inside The Broken - Tehachapi, California
The digital technique to replicate this is simple, although, admittedly, not quite as good as actually doing this with film in the darkroom. If you use a software other than Paint.NET you may still be able to do this with similar steps. Lets get started.

First, open the image in Paint.NET. Make sure you have the "Layers" window open (click "Windows" at the top and then Layers). Click on "Adjustments" at the top and convert the image to black-and-white or (if you prefer) Sepia. I really like using "Sepia+" but that is a plug-in (you can find all sorts of free plug-ins with a Google search).
Toppled Car - Tehachapi, California
Now duplicate the layer (click "Layers" at the top and then Duplicate Layer, or click the Duplicate Layer icon in the Layers window, or CTRL+SHIFT+D). The new layer should be the top layer, and in this layer reduce the contrast by about five (click "Adjustments" at the top and then Brightness/Contrast, or CTRL+SHIFT+C). Next, change the Opacity of this layer to about 195 (click "Layers" at the top and then Layer Properties, or click the Layer Properties icon in the Layers window, or push F4).

Go to the bottom layer and increase the contrast by about 25. All of these adjustments will be a little different for each image, so season to taste.
Train Wheels - Tehachapi, California
The final step is to combine or flatten the layers (click "Image" at the top and then Flatten, or CTRL+SHIFT+F). If you need to make any other adjustments, this is the time. Be sure to save.

That's it! I told you this was simple.

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