The Images

16 Century +

These pages describe my investigation into the paintings by the 16 Century+ masters to see if I could use some of their techniques in improving my post-processing.  It is a voyage of discovery, as I am artistically challenged.

As my description of this investigation is likely to be long, each section is indexed (on the left).  

There is also an arrowed ‘next’ button [] at the bottom of each page if you wish to read sequentially.

This is work in progress, as I suspect the project will take some time.  Links on these pages will open in a separate window, so that you can see them without loosing your place on the page.


George DeWolfe, in his book “Digital Masters: b&w printing”, says that:-

Seeing, Representing and Expressing the black&white scale of a scene 
is the single most important skill a painter or photographer can possess. 

He suggested that inspecting great master paintings (in b&w) would be a great learning experience, as it is the ultimate expression of how greyscales can be manipulated. The greyscale not only creates the presence, but also lays the foundation for the colour overlay. He searched for three basic things: tonal values, the way tones are organised, and how the tones are bound at their edges to create depth and separation. 

The Tonal Scale refers to the number and distribution of black, white and grey tones in an image. He noticed that the histogram of the ‘better’ individual artist paintings was remarkably consistent.

Tonal Structure in a greyscale image is composed of frameworks, patterns, or groups of tones. Tonal values are separated in the brain into highlights, midtone and shadow frameworks. Another way is to identify tonal values by the patterns they make in the picture – the so-called “web of light” that acts to bind the image together.

Edges form the depth in an image and can be roughly distributed into near, middle and far distance frameworks. Edges are hard, soft, or somewhere in between. Apparently our brain makes objects in the shadow less defined than those in the highlights and midtones.

Leonardo da Vinci popularised the technique of chiaroscuro – the modulation of highlight and shadow and the attendant colour saturation or shading. And later painters perfected these techniques.

Dan Margulis noted that these painters used less colour saturation in the darker tones than in the lighter areas of a painting and suggested using a mask, normally the Luminosity channel of LAB, when adding colour saturation. That idea certainly seems to improve images compared to uniform colour saturation.

So I wondered if it was possible, even with my images, to nick some techniques and help me move towards the idea of PhArt (Photo Art), instead of factually recording a scene.  In addition I might appreciate art more!

Where am I coming from!

None of my photos are good enough to be presented in b&w, but I realised (in my first year of digital post-processing, see the ordering of my PS Actions), that one should process tones and colour in separate steps. I also think that different techniques need to be applied when processing objects rather than people and skin tones.

I hope that the way forward is to gather and examine the works of those early masters and attempt to appreciate how they managed to create such wonderful images. I decided to break this examination into two basic sets – landscapes and people – and then record what I discovered and test this by manipulating some of my images using the ideas I saw.

In addition, I wrote this so that I can remember what I did and so that my daughter, and others, could critique my findings and help me progress more.