By its very nature, B & W photography is an art that takes a lot of time and experimentation to master because it requires dealing with some challenges. When there’s no actual color to play with, lights, contrasts, and framing become highly significant in achieving great photographic results and in the era of digital photography, post-processing will help you get there.
But first, you should take advantage of your camera and its capabilities to shoot images that are pre-maximized for the black & white conversion process to be finalized through your photo processing software.
Tips to improve your Monochrome alteration skills
Here are five quick tips to do that:
- Always shoot in RAW and preferably in color – because it gives you the most control and most information to use and work with in post-processing. Even when you switch to black & white from your camera settings, shooting in RAW will conserve information – including colors – and will make your post-processing work easier.
- Always shoot with lowest possible ISO – to avoid increased image noise that automatically occurs when converting your images to black & white. Even if you love the film feeling given by granulated images, you can always add this effect in post-processing, but it’s incredibly hard and time-consuming to remove it.
- Take advantage of low contrasts – it’s said that gloomy, dark days add an extra something to your captured images, conveying a sense of softness and mildness to the result of your black & white story.
- Use the available light wisely – shadows, highlights, and different tones will make the difference in a black and white photo.
- Use framing wisely – to emphasize most important subject that will grab viewer’s attention in your black and white image. Use foregrounds and backgrounds to create depths and give more substance to your main subject.
Ways how to convert images into black and white
Now the easiest way to convert your image into black & white in a post-processing software is to go to Image->Mode->Grayscale and… that’s it. The possible lack of contrast in the resulted image is nothing that a curve tweaking (Image->Adjustments->Curves) can’t handle.
Another easy conversion method is switching to Black & White in the Image Adjustments menu and then fine-tuning contrasts with the help of the color sliders (see images above).
The more thorough way of adjusting your digital black & white images is by using the Channel Mixer and editing each color channel (red, green and blue) separately. Have a look at each color channel in turn and notice that, depending on the channel, your image can be slightly underexposed (as seen in the green channel in the example used) or even severely underexposed (as seen in the blue channel above). This will help you decide what you want to focus on when adjusting your black & white image.
Depending on what you want to obtain to increase details and contrasts of your black and white image, you’ll need to make the proper adjustments in the channel mixer. (Image->Adjustments->Channel mixer). When you’re happy with your result, press OK and voila!
If you prefer Lightroom to Photoshop, there are three convenient options to convert your image to black & white in the Saved Preset menu. Again, depending on what you want to achieve, you can pick the standard Grayscale setting or one of the more creative alternatives: B&W low contrast or B&W high contrast.
Why should you get into Black and White Photography?
B & W photography interested many people because it adds another layer of expertise to the photography. And as you have read above, it isn’t as easy to create a beautiful B & W photography as you might think.
The list from the previous paragraph contains options that will turn a regular picture into a monochrome. It doesn’t state how to modify the photo to make it more beautiful than it was. Many different tools exist that will allow you to adjust various settings and work on elements of the picture to make the simple B & W color palate shine more than it should.