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« Make a good digital capture a better photograph using Photoshop | Main | Western Eye vs Eastern Eye »

Converting a color photograph to black and white


Black and white conversion using Adobe Lightroom


All digital cameras capture images in color, and it creates an interesting dilemma for the photographer.

When pictures were made with film, you had to make a conscious choice before you made the image, because you had to load either black and white or color film into the camera.  In many ways, it was a good thing, because it forced you to previsualize the final image before you ever made the first exposure.

To photographers growing up with digital cameras, though, those reasons may not seem obvious because all images are captured in color in the first place.  So once that happens, why would you want to convert a picture to black and white?


Original color capture


First, by removing the color from the image, you eliminate the possibility that the viewers eye will be distracted by strong colors.  Sometimes, our feelings about the composition and content is unduly influenced by that.

Second, removing the color and breaking the values into greyscale tones from white to black can help the viewer focus more on the quality of light in the picture.

And finally, but eliminating color, the viewer tends to see  texture, line and gesture more quickly.

There are a number of ways to make the conversion from color to black and white.  In the example here, I used Adobe Lightroom, using the B&W module and adjusting the individual sliders for the eight colors.  You could also use Adobe Photoshop, and either convert to greyscale, desaturate an image, or use channel mixer to create the effect you want.  Finally, you could use NIK Silver Efex Pro, which has numerous presets for different black and white looks. 



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