Converting to Black and White

Here’s the original color image:


Amsrun, on Flickr, suggested I try converting it to black and white. I’ve been looked for an image to experiment with b&w conversion, so on this rainy day with a little extra time I thought I’d give it a whirl.

It’s easy enough to mechanically convert an image to black and white in Photoshop using a variety of methods. For example, Image > Mode Greyscale does the trick, as does Image > Mode > Adjustments > Desaturate. But these techniques basically drop the color information without any compensation and produce pale, gray, washed-out looking black and white photos.

I’m not claiming to be an expert at this (yet!), but here’s what I did:

  • Converted from RBG Color to Lab Color
  • Used the Channels Palette to just look at the Lightness (L) channel
  • Worked with Image > Adjustments > Levels to bring the image into a pleasing tonal range
  • Converted to grayscale to discard all the channels other than the Lightness channer
  • Applied a red contrast filter to increase the “drama”
  • Selectively burned and dodged
  • Sharpened using the Unsharp Mask and Smart Sharpen

I’m pretty happy with the way it came out (thanks, Amsrun!), and like it best larger!

Look Ma, no Image menu! (…and no color space change or dropped channels!)

Phyllis, my beautiful wife and resident Photoshop guru, came along and suggested an alternative b&w conversion technique that is really easy and doesn’t involve channels, color spaces, or the image menu. First, here are the results:

Black and White Bristlecone 2

View this photo larger.

This doesn’t look that much different than the first version, maybe a little nicer (I think a bit more of the wood detail is preserved).

Here’s how it works:

  • Add a new layer to the color image
  • Use the Paint Bucket Tool to fill the layer with black
  • Select Color as the Blending Mode (it’s towards the bottom of the Blending Mode drop-down list on the Layers Palette
  • Voila! It’s that simple! Pretty nifty…
This entry was posted in Landscape, Photography, Photoshop Techniques.

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