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Tutorial: Enhancing Black and White Footage with Adobe Photoshop CC

In this tutorial we'll explore how you can use Adobe Photoshop to apply a customized black-and-white filter to your footage to created a stylized effect. Although Photoshop isn't a video-first tool, it does offer some nice features that aren't available in Premiere Pro or After Effects.

In this tutorial we’ll explore how you can use Adobe Photoshop to enhance black and white footage. Black-and-white footage is used pretty often in our industry, whether to create an old-fashioned look, a period piece, or to create a more stylized effect. I'm going to show you how to use Photoshop to really fine-tune your black-and-white effect. Although Photoshop isn't a video-first tool, it does offer some nice features that aren't available in Premiere Pro or After Effects.

Applying the Black & White Filter

Starting with a video clip already preselected, open it in Adobe Photoshop. In the Photoshop menu, go to File > Open, and browse until find your video. When your clip is loaded, you'll see that you have a timeline just like you would see in other video editing software (Figure 1, below).

Figure 1. The video timeline in Photoshop CC. Click the image to see it at full size.

To the right of that panel is a Layers panel (also shown in Figure 1). Here, right-click on your video clip and select Convert to Smart Object. This tells Photoshop that you want to make universal changes to your video rather than applying your changes to just one frame.

Now you can add the Black & White filter to your entire clip. In the Adjustments panel highlighted in Figure 1 you'll see a number of choices. Hovering over these gives you a description of what each adjustment can do. For this clip, choose the Black & White option in the second row (Figure 2, below).

Figure 2. Choosing the Black & White filter

Once you select it, you will see that the Black & White adjustment has been added. Because we made this a smart objective, this has been applied to our entire clip. Under the Properties panel (Figure 3, below) we can begin to fine-tune our video.

Figure 3. The Black & White filter Properties panel

From the top you'll see a drop-down of preset looks that you can apply (Figure 4, below). These are nice if you're in a hurry, or have a certain look already dialed in. For our purposes we'll stick with the default setting.

Figure 4. Preset looks

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