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Solve HDR Color Problems with Black and White

Sometimes color high dynamic range (HDR) photos just don’t look good. For whatever reason, this photo, a single-exposure HDR image, is such a case. The color version, as you can see, just isn’t that interesting, even in HDR. The objects that draw your eyes are the line of green trees and the color markings on the Mustang. The clouds and tarmac aren’t captivating, and the aircraft itself is unremarkable.

In black and white, though, the photo explodes with interesting tones. The clouds and concrete are more interesting, and the silver of the plane has a gorgeous tone that was hidden in color. The color was removed, therefore, and replaced with shades of gray. The difference is astounding.

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Black-and-white photos sometimes have the effect of bringing you closer to the subject of the photo. Depending on how you process it, you can accentuate certain elements by lightening them, or reduce their importance by darkening them. In this figure, the color HDR image suffers from an overly busy background that pulls attention off the subject (the tree and park bench).

In the black-and-white version, though, the sky is darker and areas of the tree lighter. This pulls attention to the front-center of the photo and allows your eyes to explore the simple setting. Now the background is more appropriately background.

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