Tonal Alteration Technique

An homage to black and white nude photography.

“Tonal alteration” is far from a straightforward photographic technique. Although very close to black and white photography, this process uses hints of warm and cool colors to set a mood. I begin with a camera, then use a computer. Although I transform the colors with software, the process requires human input, often requiring several hours to achieve the desired effect in each part of a given image.

The resulting toning often closely resembles monochrome techniques. When I was earning my art degree in college, I studied classic chemical processes applied to black and white fiber based papers. I was inspired to create images which resemble selenium, sepia, and platinum. Other techniques are reminiscent of early non-color images such as cyanotype, calotype or daguerreotype. A selection of two or more colors are mapped across the darks and lights of the image. To produce these digital compositions, I build on my training in traditional wet-chemical film photography processing, toning, and tinting. I typically spend many hours further adjusting the intensity in select areas in a process that succeeds hand-painting.

I remove color from an image to draw the viewer through the shapes and lines of the composition. A monochrome artwork eliminates the distraction of color. I add subtle (multi-tonal) colors to the monochrome image to compel an emotional reaction. Reducing an image to near-monochrome brings it closer to its abstract components–the heart of any artwork.

Viewing a (nearly) colorless image, free from the seductive spectrum of hues, is a more serious-feeling pursuit. It’s a contemporary twist on a timeless tradition. Black and white predates photography, with grisaille painting, printmaking, ink, and graphite drawings.


Black and white photography: shades of gray with no color.

Monochrome photography: Varying tones of a single color.

Cool gray: A color close to neutral gray, with hints of blue, purple, or turquoise.

Warm gray: A color close to neutral gray, with hints of red, orange, or yellow.

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