Effective B&W Conversions

February 21, 2012  •  Leave a Comment
I am a fan of Black & White photography. Photography started with the capture of light which later was transferred on paper as a monochromatic image. Many of the great eye-catching fine art photographs in history are great because of their composition and visual attributes. Photographers in the past had very little options but to shoot black and white. It was the only technology available at that time. Today's photographic technologies are much more varied and still many talented photographers continue to create monochromatic images. To me, a black and white photo generates an emotion of timelessness. Through the elimination of color we almost completely remove the time stamp. The photo could have been taken 50 years ago or just yesterday. The viewer not only is concerned about the visual elements that make the photo interesting such as composition, lighting techniques etc. etc...  
My photographic portfolio contains a handfull of black and white images. In the beginning I did what just about every starting photographer does at edit time and hit the B&W preset. As I began to appreciate photography and began understanding post process I quickly realized that effective Black and White conversions were not just about removing color. 
 
There are so many shades of gray between all black and all white. Effectively being able to show the minor differences between tones can result in a much more interesting photo. 
There is a wealth of information on the internet that can guide you through the black and white conversion process. I would like to make mention of Craft & Vision's "The Power of Black White" eBook as a tremendous source. The book clearly shows how to create stunning black and white photos by using Adobe Lightroom 3.
 
My Tips:
  • Think B&W from the start: I'm always thinking B&W while during the photo shoot.  It helps to set the camera's preview screen to show black and white but keep in mind that if you shoot in RAW the images imported to your editing software will be in color.
  • A wide range of color yields a wide range of shads of gray. 
  • I use a combination of Lightroom and Nik Software's Silver EfexPro.
  • Once imported to Lighroom, perform the basic adjustments. At this step I may crop the image and make exposure adjustments.
  • Once I'm satisfied with the basic adjustments I'll click the B&W button on the HSL/Color/B&W sliders on the the right hand side in the Develop module.
  • Lighroom does an excellent job with the initial adjustment. 

  • This is when you experiment with the color sliders to adjust the shades of gray. 
 
  • By make a few adjustments to the orange, red and blue sliders you can begin to start seeing the differences in the models skin color, the outside window and the background. 
  • Every image is slightly different.
  • I like to use the clarity slighter to pop out the details.
As you become more familiar with the software adjustments you will begin to see the differences in the quality of your B&W conversions.

 


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