Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tips for Converting Photos to Black and White

Even though my camera, like many DSLRs out there, gives me the option to shoot in black and white, I always, always shoot in color.  I just like having the choice to convert to black and white from color in post-processing.  And, if you've visited my blog before, then you know that I love, love, love black and white photography. 

Sometimes you might have a photo that will work beautifully in color but in black and white it falls flat and the details and pops that make the image stand out are completely lost.  Other times you might have a rather boring photograph straight from your camera that comes to life when you strip it of all the color.  Because the concept of black and white photography is so different than color photography you have to be able to visualize the photo and the scene before you shoot it.  I've said before that over the years I have trained my eye to actually see in black and white.  It's not a science but if you practice enough and look at enough photography online, in books, at museums and galleries and especially at your own photos, you can develop or at least hone, this skill.  

As a general matter, I strongly believe that all (not just most, but really all) photos need some help in post-processing so before I convert to black and white, I always adjust things like exposure, levels and saturation.   Yes, I am a total perfectionist and yes I am slightly obsessive when it comes to my photos but oh well...I find that most photographers I meet are!

So, here are five simple tips to get you started for taking your color photos to black and white in Photoshop. 

1.  Shoot RAW

I usually shoot RAW unless I'm just taking snapshots of my baby or other family.  I like (need) the control that shooting raw gives me.  When you are editing RAW files, you never lose the original data recorded on your memory card, and it's possible to change your white balance, sharpness, saturation, etc after the fact in post-processing. If you change your mind, the original data is still there.  This is especially important if you're gong to desaturate your photo.

2.  Grayscale Mode

Image>Mode>Grayscale

Switching from RGB to Grayscale gets rid of all the color information from an image.

3.  Desaturate

Image>Adjustments>Desaturate

This option will drain the color in one click. 

4.  Hue/Saturation

Image>Adjustments> Hue/Saturation

You can also choose to desaturate gradually by clicking on Hue/Saturation instead of Desaturate by moving the slider.

5.  Channel Mixer

Image>Adjustments>Channel Mixer

If you click the box next to Monochrome at the bottom you can play with the color sliders to get the tone that you're looking for.

Once you change your photo to black and white you can then go in and play around with the brightness and contrast.  Also, you might find that the changes you made to exposure or levels or anything else, don't work the same once you've changed the image to black and white so I would definitely work in layers if you can so you can go back and make all of your adjustments.  Some people will tell you that you should make all the changes to exposure, etc. after you've converted the color image to black and white.  I find that it's a personal choice and one that I'm constantly playing around with.  So try things your way and see what works for you!


Do you have any tips to share?

Here are some examples of my photos in both color and black and white.  Which do you think work better?  Or are they just too different to compare?

After the Rain


Lost in Translation

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Lego Land

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Copyright 2009 Monica L. Shulman

Urban Summer Kids

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Street Stories

The New Yorkers

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Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

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Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

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Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

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hay milonga de amor



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...feeling alive...

Copyright 2009 Monica L. Shulman

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The Renaissance is not Black and White

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Lost in Thought

Copyright 2009 Monica L. Shulman
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Copyright 2009 Monica L. Shulman

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I Happen to Like Purple.






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4 comments:

That Girl in Pearls said...

Great tips! The man with the cigarette is so striking... huge difference when it's in black and white! I really need to get into photography. I have always Loved the idea and my husband has a more than decent camera now. I'm out of excuses!

Great blog. I'll make sure to follow along so I can learn how to use this thing haha

Hope you have a wonderful day, Love.
B.
That Girl in Pearls

Chessa! said...

thanks! you should definitely practice..it's always fun and you'll get so much better over time:) thanks for stopping by!

Lee Oliveira said...

Great tips and amazing shots.
l love black and white
lee x

Krissy :: Miss B and Hustle said...

Amazing photos!