Home How-To Image Processing Convert To Black & White
Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Convert To Black & White

How to transform your color images into stunning monochrome

This Article Features Photo Zoom
As you might expect, Photoshop has numerous options for converting images to black-and-white. One popular conversion method is to choose Image > Mode > Grayscale, and your image is converted to black-and-white. This might give you a good result, but it doesn't allow easy adjustment of the tonalities in the shot and really isn't the best way.

Instead, I use the following method in Photoshop to convert my images. First, let's look at how to convert a RAW image. Shooting in RAW offers advantages over JPEG and TIFF. Working in Photoshop's Raw converter on a RAW image is non-destructive (similar to Lightroom), and you also can use RAW adjustments like Clarity to improve your shot. While TIFF and JPEG images can be opened in the Raw converter (change settings in Photoshop Preferences > File Handling > Camera Raw Preferences), these pixels have been processed at least once already in order to be saved in their current file format. You can get excellent results using JPEG or TIFF, but if you want the most flexibility for the end result, shoot in RAW.

To start, open the image in Photoshop, and the Camera Raw dialogue box will open. Start by making the standard image adjustments (exposure, white, blacks and so forth). Next, choose the HSL/Grayscale button located below the histogram. Click the Convert to Grayscale button and the image is converted to black-and-white.

Various color sliders are shown, allowing you to adjust the grayscale mix. The auto button often gives you a nice result, but I normally want to tweak things even more. Wouldn't it be nice to have that Targeted Adjustment tool similar to Lightroom? Guess what, Photoshop CS6 using the new Raw converter now has that option.

Choose the Targeted Adjustment tool from the toolbar in the left corner (it has a plus, target and black triangle symbol), and put your cursor over the area you want to adjust. Click and drag your cursor up and down to adjust the tonality of the area. You also can adjust curves, noise reduction, sharpening and many other image characteristics using the tools available in the Camera Raw dialog box. After doing my black-and-white conversion, I often go back to the Clarity and Contrast sliders and fine-tune the image some more.

If you don't shoot in RAW, Photoshop has another good option to convert your images to black-and-white. Click the Black and White Adjustment button in the Adjustments palette. This adds a new Adjustment Layer, and a dialog box opens, which allows you to adjust colors in the grayscale mix. You can click on the Targeted Adjustment tool (Hand symbol) in the left corner and use this on the image to selectively adjust areas. I also like to try the Color Filter Presets in the drop-down menu. Sometimes these filters do a great job of improving contrast between different tonalities.


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