Tuesday, June 24, 2014


I am a color photographer--I favor those awesome brilliant primary and secondary colors. However, sometimes some images just lend themselves well to B&W renditions. As you might expect, I don't have too many of those. However, I have some in my collection, even a few I display in my gallery on my website. 

Here are a couple of scenarios when I might decide to convert to a B&W image. Sometimes there just isn't much color to play with, but if the subject appeals to me, if I can create an appealing and interesting composition, and if I see a lot of contrast between lights, darks, and mid-tones, I will sometimes get the shot, knowing that I am going to convert it. Whew, that that was a long sentence. I almost ran out of breath writing it!

Here's another scenario. Sometimes, it doesn't occur to me to convert an image to B&W until I see it on my computer monitor. At times, the image, though it may look good in color, 
I sense that it could also look good in B&W. As in the example in this article.

One thing I like about this type of conversion is that I can add contrast and vibrance without negatively affecting colors and hues, which can happen to color images.

Here are some of the different photo editing software tools and commands I like to use. Everybody has his/her own preferences, but these are the ones that work for me.

> Black & White image adjustment. I prefer this to 'desaturate' because I get to experiment with filters like reds and yellows the way black & white photographers did in the olden days.
> Brightness & contrast. Results can be better with black and white than with color images.
> Vibrance. I find that I can add contrast without adding contrast when working in B&W. 
> Shadows/Highlights. This tool is deceiving because I can not only increase or decrease the variance between highlights and shadows in the image, but also for the mid-tones. I like to see gradations of darks, mid-tones, and whites in B&W images--they're more dramatic. 
I don't mind deep shadows in areas that are not key players in an image. They give the image a sense of three-dimensionality that is often missing in HDR applications.
> Filters. Primarily, I use 'noise reduction'--'despeckle' and 'reduce noise' per channel. If the sky is the only area needing noise reduction, I might select the sky and leave the rest of the image untouched.The 'sharpen' filter I use only as needed, and not too much.
> Tone Curve (highlights/lights & darks/shadows). I only use these if I cannot get what I want by using Shadows/Highlights mentioned above.

I intentionally did not recommend how much of this or that to apply. That is strictly a personal choice, depending on what and how we want the image to look like. Experiment. Every image will need different degrees of applications.

Okay, now let me show you the results of the above mentioned applications to one of my many images of The Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. Enjoy.