High-Contrast B&W in Photoshop Elements

Hw to create a groovy "Old School" darkroom special effect without smelling like fixer.

I loved high-contrast printing using Agfa #6 high-contrast paper. This legendary paper’s characteristics were that it produced practically no midtones. It reduced images to blacks and whites and little else.

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In the 1990s Agfa discontinued #6 paper, and it wasn’t until the advent of digital photography that high-contrast printing was possible again.


Here’s how to get that Agfa #6 look, digitally:

Original color shot of a possibly familiar subject. I shot Lady Liberty from her Jersey side--Liberty State Park--using an Olympus SP-570 UZ camera.

First, take out the color. Go to Enhance > Remove Color to turn into Black-and-white if your original isn’t already monochrome.

Now go to Adjust Lighting > Brightness/Contrast. Move the Contrast slider to around 70-90%. There should be just a touch of gray but you should see mostly blacks and whites. I chose 85% for this shot so you could get a hint of sky. (In the darkroom, varying the dilution of the paper developer could fine-tune contrast in a similar manner, but it was a lot messier and took a long time!)

Too far? Just right? It's your choice! #6 paper could give you results close to this at 100% contrast, but more advanced photographers used lithographic paper to get this pure black and white effect.

 

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