Home How-To Shooting Seeing In Black & White
Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Seeing In Black & White

Create striking monochromatic images from your color digital photos

The default setting applies 100% to the red channel. However, you can change this and increase the percentage to the green or blue channels, taking the strengths of each channel to emphasize certain tones that are important to your image. If you have a strong red element in the scene that you want to render as a dark tone, you would increase the percentage of the green channel, for instance.

While that seems counterintuitive, remember that if you emphasize the red channel, the red lightens the scene. The same goes for green colors if you emphasize the green channel and blue for the blue channel. Lastly, make sure that the sum of all three channels doesn't exceed 100% if you want to keep the exposure consistent with the original. Higher numbers will result in a brighter image, and lower numbers will darken a photograph.

Fine-Tuning Images
The initial conversion of a color image into black-and-white still may result in an image that's flat and lacks punch. It's important to check black and white points in Levels and Curves to make adjustments to contrast. Such enhancements are needed to produce the look you've come to expect from striking monochromatic prints.

Begin with Levels, which includes a histogram that reflects the entire tonal range of your image. By adjusting the black and white point indicators, you can establish the darkest and brightest points of the image. A strong black-and-white image requires establishing a solid black and solid white point (unless, of course, your image consists of only gray tones). Adjust both the black and white point indicators to the extreme edges of the histogram. If you want a natural-looking image, don't bring them in too far; if you do, the image will suffer from clipping, which results in the loss of the highlight and shadow details. Even with a slight adjustment, you'll likely see an improvement in the overall contrast of the image.




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