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Beginner's Tutorial for creating Black and White studio-style photographs

Author: philebus

Tools Needed

  • Poser or DAZ Studio
  • Paint Program that supports Photoshop plug-ins

Introduction

This will give you a start in turning your Poser/DAZ Studio renders into black and white studio photographs in any paint program that can run Photoshop plug-ins. The full sized picture that was created for this tutorial is too big to show here, if you want to see the full picture head this way: My Renderosity Gallery

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Step 1 - Get Plugged In!

Before you get started you are going to want a plug-in called Virtual Photographer. There's not much to this one that can't be done within your paint program but if you want to save yourself a lot of time messing about, then you want this. Best of all, its free! Go get it here:

www.opticvervelabs.com/defult.asp

Step 2 - Setting Up

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The first thing to remember for these images is to keep them simple - bold details work best! In selecting your textures, remember that you want lots of contrasts - this is black and white, contrast and light–those are what its all about! Be cautious of reflection maps, more detailed ones just don't look right after your post-work. If you're going to use them, make sure they are simple ones. I have also found that with colour pictures, I can get near photo realism with a simple texture that is very well lit - but for black and white, go for detailed, photo realistic textures, 8 times in 10 they will give you better results.

I've used Stephanie Petite (this is a must own model) with some face morphs and the Kente Clothing. I've then added a pose by Firebirdz (from the new SP Sensua 9 - this pack also contains some of the best sitting poses you'll find anywhere!) and worked on the dress to match it. When positioning clothes and adding textures, have in mind what will be seen in the picture, don't waste time or resources - her right foot will be hidden from view in the final render, so I won't worry about it here.

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If you are trying for photo realism, then your choice of hair is important. Generally, something system intensive will be best! I like Grace Lion Hair for this but have recently discovered Curlz for Girlz, which is sold here at DAZ - it is heavy going and my computer struggles but it looks great for black and white and also for natural media finishes such as watercolour.

Step 3 - Props

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The right choice of props can add a lot to a picture - if nothing else, it gives you something to base a pose around. The Props I've uses here are the Primal Drums, no longer available, as they matched the pose without my having to make any changes (I was feeling lazy!). Remember to move the camera about to place them exactly, they may look right from the camera position you want for your photo but if they are too far forward or back then the shadows cast will give away the mistake in your render.

Step 4 - Background and Lighting

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I've mentioned keeping things simple and the cyclorama portrait background is spot on. The textures are perfect for this, mottled shades creating plenty of tones and contrasts. But a wall or corner is easy enough to create and texture and the sharp angles can create subtle shadows.

I leave the cyclorama till last for a reason. Having a slow computer, I make use of the bounding box option for moving the scene around and the cyclorama's box encompasses everything within the scene, obscuring from view all unless the camera is placed within the box.

Studio lights just take too much time and experiment to do yourself and there are so many available at reasonable prices that its just daft not to buy them. For colour work I would say “render times be damned!” and use one of the DAZ complex globals. However, in black and white, you can get away with less lighting. There are some simpler lights in the DAZ sets but when choosing them, keep in mind the shadows you may want. For this picture, I've used the BVH Pro Studio lights that come with his products (I recommend the Feathered Serpent).

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Step 5 - Add Textures

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Its now time to start adding those textures. I've already mentioned the need for detailed quality and that can't be stressed enough! I've used skin type 5 from the International Beauty Bundle (I won't stop plugging this product, it is an essential purchase, the morphs - I've used some here - are a must and for five texture sets of this quality you are walking away with a bargain. Period!), don't neglect make-up options for black and white, you aren't getting the colours but you are getting extra tones. For the clothing, I've used Songs of Africa but either of the texture sets sold at DAZ would do the job.

Consider the textures of your props as carefully as the rest of the scene, a difference in quality will make an uncomfortable contrast. Also, remember that bump maps DO make a difference - look at the two drums, the larger one has a bump map, the smaller one doesn't. The difference speaks for itself. If your product doesn't have a bump map, consider making one - just open the texture, convert to grey scale, make it negative, then up the contrast.

At this stage, take a good look for any poke through. If its small enough to touch up with a clone brush leave it!

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Step 6 - Set Up Your Camera

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Now you want to consider the size and shape of your picture. I don't like to have a figure too central. I've first altered the size of my window and then, instead of moving the figures (sometimes you want to do this, to line up with a different part of the background and/or for more interesting shadows), I've moved the cyclorama to the left. Remember to alter your camera's focal length, I make mine about 95mm.

OK, now you're almost ready to render. The important rule for this is render big. Bigger than you need, even if will only be seen on the net! I rendered this at 2606×1800. I sometimes do bigger. On my inferior computer (Pentium II 350 with 128RAM Windows 98) this took about half an hour - just right for a cup of tea. If I was using hair, then of course this would take a lot longer! Chances are, you've a better machine than this, so no tea for you!

Now save the render in your preferred format and open it in your favourite paint program. I'm using Paint Shop Pro 8.10 for this but nothing I say depends on that.

Step 7 - First Steps

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For any finish, be it photograph or watercolour, you need to prepare your picture a little bit before going ahead. This usually just means altering the brightness and/or contrast and if this is the case, then Virtual Photographer (which I'll refer to as VP) provides a quick fix. Start the plug-in and look at the panel on the right “Photographic Style.” Check the On/Off box, then the Effect box and on the drop down menu to the right of this, select Wash and then hit the Process button.

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Step 8 - Getting Black and White

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Start VP again and take a look at the presets. There is a nice variety for you to explore here and you can create your own without difficulty - but the language here is the photographer's and not of Paint Program's. Remember that and you'll have not trouble at all. For this, I've chosen “Classic” from the black and white options. Before processing the option, I've also altered the Film Speed (the bottom left hand box) to 800 ASA, this will add some grain to the picture. You may not always want to do this and the amount of grain you want may also vary with the size the picture will be viewed at. This is just trial and error so have a play.

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Step 9 - Last Touches

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The picture isn't quite right, I still need to alter the contrast. I could have altered the preset to do this in one go but every picture is a little different and so I prefer to do this after the filter has done its job. I've set the brightness to 5 and contrast to 25.

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Step 10 - Making the Crop

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Now its time for the Crop tool. This ia another good reason to render large - you will almost always want to crop the image. There are no hard and fast rules but try not to crop to close to the figures. As it stands, the picture will print at about 7 to 8 inches wide, depending on dpi and the print quality you want. For viewing on the internet, I resized to 1150×780 and it's now that you can see the finish properly.