Ansel Adams-like Photos

If you're like me, you love black and white photography. And nothing beats the dramatic, starkly beautiful black and white of Ansel Adams. In this tutorial, we'll use a technique that enables you to approximate the same sort of dramatic effect, starting from a color photo.

  1. Start with a landscape image that has plenty of sky. Be sure that it is free of JPEG artifacts. And the sharper the image, the better. If you don't have a photo like that on hand, you can use my example:

  2. Choose Image > Split Channel > Split to RGB. Keep the Red channel (the newly created grayscale image marked Redn* in its title bar, where n is a number). Close the other two greyscale images and your original image.

  3. Choose Adjust > Brightness and Contrast > Clarify. Set Strength of effect anywhere between 3 and 5, and click OK. Apply Clarify again using the same setting. (Or just press Ctrl+Y to repeat.) The results should look something like this:

  4. Choose Adjust > Brightness and Contrast > Histogram Adjustment. Set the Low and High clip limits to no more than 0.01%. Set Gamma so that the detail in your image's shadows is just barely visible, but not so high that the image is lightened too much overall. (Start by trying a value of 1.20.)


    After clicking OK, your image should look something like this:

  5. Increase the color depth of the image with Image > Increase Color Depth > 16 Million Colors (24 bit).

  6. Now adjust the color of the image with Adjust > Hue and Saturation > Colorize. Set Hue to 160 and Saturation to somewhere between 15 and 20.

    Here's the final result for my example:

    Optional: You might find that your image needs a little sharpening. If this is the case, finish up with Adjust > Sharpness > Sharpen or (preferably) Effects > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask.

For folks who really like this affect, I've put together this script, which can be run either in Silent mode or Interactive mode. Be sure to unzip the script to your Scripts-Trusted folder.

Thanks to Kris Zaklika, who was inspired by a special on Ansel Adams, came up with this technique, and then passed it on so it could be shared!

How To