Rendering CrossFit in B&W

by | 1 year ago

Last year, a friend and co-worker of mine at the studio, Dana, shared how nervous he was about an upcoming competition at his CrossFit gym. Each year, there’s a national CrossFit Open where members of each local gym perform a series of specific exercises over five weeks. He not only needed to complete the total number of repetitions for each exercise, but each rep had to be done with good form to be counted. Though he had been a dutiful member of the gym for years, he knew this would challenge him. 

I had always had an interest in photographing CrossFit, and recognized this as the perfect opportunity to do just that. Dana welcomed the idea and I received approval to photograph at the gym. I arrived to find men and women of all ages and shapes preparing to participate in the night’s event; however, my focus was entirely on Dana. 

As he moved through each exercise, I focused not only on his execution but also on his interaction with others. This included the person responsible for keeping track of his form and repetitions, as well as serving as a source of encouragement throughout Dana’s attempt. I knew that was something I wanted to capture in a photograph. 

That moment presented itself at the end of his last rep of his last exercise. Dana collapsed to the floor exhausted, struggling to catch his breath. Sweat beaded off his scalp as he was congratulated for his success. It was a strong emotional moment that I knew should be rendered in black and white. (KelbyOne members can click here to download a version of this image to follow along.) 

Step One: Open the image in the Develop module in Lightroom Classic. To level the image, grab the Crop Overlay tool (R), and drag the Angle slider until the line where the floor meets the wall aligns with the grid. Press Enter to commit the crop. 

Step Two: In the Basic panel, click on the four-square icon to the right of the Profile drop-down menu to open the Profile Browser. Expand the Camera Matching set, and select the Camera ACROS v.2 profile that closely matches the look produced by the Fujifilm XT3 camera. (The options in this menu will vary depending on the make and model of your camera.) If you click the star icon at the top right of a profile, it will add it to the Favorites set. Anything in your Favorites set will also show up in the Profile drop-down menu, as shown here. Click Close to exit the Profile Browser. 

Step Three: In the Presets panel, expand the B&W set and select the B&W Punch preset. This provides a high-contrast rendering of the black-and-white file by darkening Blacks, brightening Whites, and increasing Clarity. The default setting for the Amount slider that appears immediately beneath the Profile control is 150%. You can decrease or increase the percentage to your taste. In this example, we reduced it to around 130%. 

Step Four: Next, go to the Histogram panel located at the top of the right-side panels, and click on the triangle located at the top left-hand corner. This enables the Shadow Clipping indicator, which will appear as blue overlays on the image, indicating the areas of the image that have no detail because they’re too dark. Click on the triangle at the upper right of the Histogram to enable the Highlight Clipping indicator, which will warn you where highlights are being overexposed. This appears as red overlays on the image. 

If you wanted to remove the shadow clipping in an image, drag the Blacks slider while observing the left triangle at the top of the Histogram. When that triangle turns black, this indicates that all shadow areas of the image will be rendered with detail. You’ll notice there are no longer any blue overlays in the image. Since we’re going for a high-contrast look, we’re going to leave the Blacks unchanged. 

Step Five: There are some bright areas, however, that lack detail, including the pages on the clipboard and the woman’s shoes behind Dana. While observing the triangle at the upper right of the Histogram, drag the Whites slider until the triangle turns black. Even after the triangle turns black, there may still be some red overlay areas in the image indicating clipping. Keep dragging the Whites slider until those red overlays disappear, which will avoid blowing out the highlights. Refine this further with the Highlights slider to restore some of the detail without impacting the white point of the entire image. When done, you can click the triangles in the Histogram again to turn off the clipping indicators. 

Step Six: Though the image on the screen appears as black-and-white, the color data is still present and can be used to further control the contrast of the image. For example, in the B&W panel, moving the Orange slider can lighten or darken the appearance of the skin. In this particular image, the Yellow slider brightens and darkens the sole of Dana’s footwear. The blue does the same for his T-shirt. These sliders normally require only the slightest of adjustments. 

Step Seven: In the Details panel are the controls for Sharpening and Noise Reduction. Leave these at their respective defaults. Though the image does exhibit some noise as a result of the high ISO setting, there’s a natural look to it that serves it well. 

Step Eight: The focus of the image should be on Dana. And though he’s nicely framed by two people on either side of him, let’s increase the emphasis on him by applying a vignette. In the Lens Corrections module, click on the Manual tab at the top, and move the Vignetting Amount slider slightly to the left just to enable the Midpoint slider below it. Move the Midpoint slider all the way to the left to make it easier to see the vignette while you’re adjusting the Amount slider. Set the Amount to –39, and then adjust the transition of the vignette by moving the Midpoint to 20. 

Step Nine: Though the overall image looks good, Dana’s expression is still in shadow. To brighten this up, click on the Adjustment Brush tool (K), which is located just below the Histogram panel. A series of controls that mirror those found in the Basic panel will appear. These adjustments will apply only to the areas on which you paint on the image using the Adjustment Brush. 

Step 10: Click to the right of the word “Effect” and a drop-down menu will appear. Select Dodge (Lighten), and turn on Auto Mask in the Brush section at the bottom of the panel (Auto Mask will attempt to keep your brushstrokes inside the lines). Using the default settings, brush across Dana’s face to brighten it. Cumulative brush strokes will make it brighter and brighter. If you press the O key on your keyboard, it will reveal a red overlay to indicate where you’ve applied the brushstrokes. You can further refine the level of the look by adjusting the Exposure control in the Adjustment Brush panel. Press K to exit the Adjustment Brush, and we’re done!