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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.

Tinting the Video and Adjusting Colors

Using the Tint option (Figure 5, below), you can add an overall color wash to your video. This is a nice option for a sepia-toned look, as Figure 5 shows. You can select the color by clicking on the square. A color panel appears and you can pick from a huge range of colors. Once you’ve chosen your color, press OK to confirm the selection.

Figure 5. Applying a sepia tint. Click the image to see it at full size.

Now here comes the cool part. Below the Tint button in Figure 3 you can see sliders for each of the individual colors and we can adjust these one by one. Here you have complete creative control and can increase or decrease each of these colors. At any time you can reset your adjustments by going back to the top of the properties panel and selecting default from the drop-down.

This effect also includes an Auto option (to the right of Tint in Figure 3) where you can let Photoshop do the work for you. Click the Auto button and watch it in action. Photoshop adjusts each of the individual sliders for us. You might be satisfied with this; I find it useful to compare these numbers to the ones I manually dial in.

The Hand Button

The last feature I'll demonstrate is my favorite. Reset your adjustment back to default once again. Navigate down to the hand between the arrows button, to the left of the Tint checkbox (Figure 6, below), and click this button.

Figure 6. Clicking the Hand button

When you hover over your footage you'll see an eyedropper icon. This nifty tool allows you to hover over anything in your video and adjust the exact color of that object. You do this by left-clicking on the object, holding the left mouse button down, and then dragging the tool to the left or right. Figure 7 (below) shows the red color being adjusted for the selected area as I drag.

Figure 7. Adjusting the color of specific areas of the image using the Hand tool. Click the image to see it at full size.

This is really handy, as Photoshop tells me how it is interpreting the color of this exact horse. Now I can adjust each object in my image this same way. Similarly, I can move over to the sky and left-click, hold, and drag to the right or left. The cyan slider is now being adjusted as I drag left or right. Finally, I'll go over to the left of my video and do this for the hair on the horse's neck. You can see in the tutorial video that accompanies this article at the 3:30 mark that it's adjusting my yellow slider and I'm able to manually adjust the highlights in this area.

Exporting the Footage

When you're happy with your results, you can export this footage by going to File > Export > Render Video (Figure 8, below).

Figure 8. Exporting the footage

While it may take a little extra time to get your footage into Photoshop to make these adjustments, it's totally worth it. You can see how powerful a tool like this really is by having the ability to adjust each color individually. Give it a try the next time you're adding a black and white look to your footage and I guarantee you'll be happy with the results.


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