Creative Black & White DIGITAL ARTISTRY

In January 2016, I took on the challenge of signing up for and finishing Sebastian Michaels' Creative Black and White Photo Artistry Course. This Photo Essay is a culmination of that 4 Week course and some of the artwork I produced.

Each week we were treated to tutorials and instructional videos on everything from simple B&W Conversion, cropping, dramatic lighting, film emulations, layers and clipping masks. Initially Sebastian asked each of us to pick a few photos that we thought would convert really well to B&W and then upload them in our Private Flickr Group. We also had to discuss what we liked about each image.

These were my initial images I loaded on the Flickr Group. Most of these I actually took on a recent trip down the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia. I loved the sweeping landscapes and dramatic clouds. The shell on the beach fascinated me with the multi hued beach sand against the shell. The King Kong attack of the Wedding was a composite shot I did at the request of the Bride & Groom at a recent wedding shoot. I was very proud of that piece.

Session 1

Our first session was an adventure in time management, with so many videos covering an array of topics; I was like a kid in a candy store and savoured every morsel. Watching and rewatching some of the videos for snippets and insights into various techniques;

  • Cropping
  • Global Adjustments
  • Selective Adjustments
  • Repairs
  • Conversion
  • Duotones
  • Basic Treatments
  • Film Emulation
  • Textures

The Assignment

Three before and after B&W conversion and artistic effects & filters - click to see full images
To really try to focus on the photography, the conversion, the treatment. Right now see if you can get down to the root of it all: creating an awesome black and white photo that is in itself arresting or captivating in some way.

After several days and hours of video footage, Sebastian carefully went through and discussed the merits of hundreds of individual images, including my Angel Image. I had worked quite hard on setting up this image in the studio and had paid particular attention to use of dramatic lighting and selective adjustments while doing the B&W conversion.

Session 2

Still reeling from the wealth of information (not to mention bonus material from textures, lights, overlays and more), plus seeing my initial assignment image on the screen, I was spurned on to do more. We learned more in depth techniques and various areas relating to our craft;

  • Dramatic Lighting
  • Creature Blur
  • Scratches and Dust
  • Emulsion and Wet Plate effects

The Assignment

This time around our assignment was to create a triptych as it were, three slightly different images to convey or tell a story. Mine was a fairytale. "Once upon a time, In a land far, far away, There lived a Princess"
You will be assembling a SET of three images (either the same subject, captured in different ways, or preferably a sequence of images — for example: a setting, a main subject, and a close-up detail — or some kind of set that is clearly tied together in some way), where each is to be interesting and well done in its own right, but where the whole sequence also needs to feel related and work as a set, the three images executed with a similar (yet preferably not identical) treatment ...

Session 3

Alas my images from Session 2 Assignment did not rate a mention, but honestly, not that many made the cut. Of those that did, they were pretty special, giving us lofty aims and big shoes to fill. We can dream and learn and strive for greatness. Occasionally our Muse grants our wishes.

We covered off a few more topics and watched some brilliant work transpiring before our eyes, by some truly talented artists;

  • Composites
  • Clipping Masks
  • Edge Effects
  • Photo Realistic Composites
  • Featured Artist - Caroline Julia Moore
  • Featured Artist - Jean Hutter
  • Featured Artist - Joy Duddell

The Assignment

Nothing complicated about this one ... except for the work itself. Your assignment here is to simply create a composition (artistic, painterly, photo-realistic, whatever) you're proud of. Come up with a cool idea and bring it to life. Try to use at least three or four images and several adjustment layers to bring it all together ... And be forewarned: plan to put in some time on this one. Making a really cool composite takes time and often a good deal of trial and error until you get it just right.
This first piece was a special model sitting I did involving 5 images blended and layered into one image. I simply called it Faces, but it resembles the many faces of man. It is the first purposefully created model shoot I have ever done for a particular finished image.
I entitled this piece Moon Song, it is a composite of many different photos, mostly my own with some course content. This was perhaps the most ambitious piece I had attempted (up until Faces). Result of hours of layers, masks, blending, painting and filters. I was so happy with the end result. I would love to see it printed on a T-Shirt.........I'd love to wear this on a T-Shirt!
My first attempt for this assignment, my original photo of model Kendal, with course content overlays, masks, paint splashes graphics and more. It is quite sweet, I love her eyes, but not as creative as the other two.

Session 4

Which leads us to here. Sebastian encourages us to continually expand on our art, work a little each day, to grow and learn. Part of that process is to upload our images to Flickr, and various other Social Media Links (Facebook etc), but also to put our artwork out 'THERE' in the real world. Session 4 focused on this aspect;

  • Sharpening effects when working with textures
  • Artistic effects with custom brushes
  • Featured Artist - "Duality" by Jean Hutter
  • Featured Artist - "Dance of the Time Vortex" by Caroline Julia Moore
  • Setting up a Portfolio website
  • Setting up Photo Essays with Adobe Slate
  • Fine Art Prints and canvasses
  • Photo Artistry Books

The Assignment

Part 1 - We have to put our artwork out there, and use one of the prescribed methods from above. I felt I wasn't quite ready, with enough content to publish a photo book, although I have done one previously, so I have a fair idea of what to do and how to do it. I will look at setting up a Portfolio site, and will hopefully get that up and running soon. Which leaves me with a Fine Art Print, of which I thought to print and frame Angel and give to my beautiful model Caitlyn as a thank you (and hopefully encouragement to sit for me again) and well to put it bluntly this Photo Essay on Adobe Slate. This is a new medium for me, and perhaps quite a few other people as well.

Part 2 - We need to submit one or two of our favourite pieces for the B&W Special edition of the Living the Artistic Life Magazine which Sebastian puts out, usually for the Awake class, which I am doing as well. In fact, I have already had once piece published in an edition this year, it was so exciting to see my artwork in a full glossy ePub!

This is where my essay ends, with just a few additional images I have created through out this course.

Suburban Serenity

Featuring graffiti and alleyways of Melbourne, the Church arch is from Ballarat and the background Garden scene from Cloude Hill. Colby Files Model and Topaz Impression drawing and painting filters.


The Frog and dragonfly were actually carved in wood and part of the Stihl Wood Carving Exhibit 2016, with various textures and overlays from course content, as well as some of my own.


My Model Shot 'Luke' high key B&W studio shoot, featuring Lightroom Presets and subtle Duo Tonings. Sometimes a photo just wants to be a photo!

Born to be Wild

This was a shot of a Vesper parked in a Melbourne alleyway which caught my eye. Used many course overlays and backgrounds, used many unusual blend modes such as hard light and colour burn to create the depth of colour from a basically duotone print. I added the Typography for a bit of fun

Created By
Julie Powell
All main photos are my own with Copyrights apart from Colby Files Models with which I have permission to use.

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