Fine art can mean a whole lot of different things, but here I’m just going to show how to turn a colour image into a simple graphic composition that could work quite nicely when you hang it on your wall.
There are two things you need in order for this to work. One is an image with a strong, simple composition that’s going to work well at different viewing distances. Big, bold shapes are best, and details from nature work well.
The other thing you need is a combination of subtle tonal adjustments to bring out the graphic arrangement of the objects in the picture and a border to finish off the effect – a border works well when you frame it later.
Here’s my start shot. It was taken in colour, but I thought at the time that it might work better in black and white.
01 Start from the Neutral look
Silver Efex Pro 2 does have a ‘Fine Art’ preset, but I don’t think it’s particularly effective. In this instance, I think it’s better to apply the adjustments yourself, so I’m starting from the default ‘Neutral’ look.
02 Tonal adjustments
The key is to adjust the tones in the picture to get the greatest contrast and bring out the graphic composition but without sacrificing subtle shadow detail.
1) I start by pushing the Contrast slider up to around 50%. This makes the composition stronger and, in most cases, without sacrificing too much highlight or shadow detail.
2) The key part of the technique, though, is the Amplify White slider. I push this right up to maximum, which brings the highlights and brighter tones in the image almost to white.
3) If the highlights do start to disappear, use the Highlights slider in the Tonality Protection section. This subtly recovers highlight detail without affecting the rest of the tones in the image.
03 Add a border
Borders aren’t just decorative devices. They help to ‘contain’ and frame the image and give it the feeling of a formal display object. It also leaves a little clear space around the image which will improve its appearance later when you frame it.
04 ‘White’ vignettes
I’m finishing off with a subtle vignette effect – ‘White Frame 2’ in the Vignette drop-down presets menu. I felt this picture needed just a slight lightening effect in the corners to keep the viewer’s attention focused towards the centre.
05 The finished picture
The adjustments I’ve carried out here are relatively subtle, but small details matter if you’re going to be looking at a picture for a long time. Now I’m just of to check the garage to see if I’ve got a frame the right size…