3 Basic Methods and 1 Secret Method for Obtaining an Astonishing Black and White Photography

In Black & White Photography, the shapes, the structures and the contrast gain importance.
You can shoot directly in BW on most of the digital cameras, and some of them (Canon EOS) even come with some software filters to control the contrast (red, orange, yellow). The disadvantage of shooting BW is that you can not have that picture in colors if you change your mind and in most cases you can’t apply color filters before BW conversion.
By shooting in RAW mode you will obtain a lively BW Photography. Why? Because raw format offers more detailed grey tonalities. Some RAW converters have the BW option incorporated.

For TIFF and JPEG there are many possibilities to convert in BW. The chosen method depends on the desire to influence the grey tonalities during the conversion.

Method 1 – Desaturate !

The simplest solution is the “Desaturate” option in Photoshop, in the “Image”->”Adjustments” menu. This way, there is a high probability that some information of the image will be lost.
Black and White Conversion

Method 2 – Saturate to -100 !

The second choice in Photoshop is to reduce the saturation to -100 (same Image -> Adjustments menu).
Black and White Conversion

Method 3 – Change Image Mode !

The third method in Photoshop is to transform the RGB mode to Grayscale (or Duotone in case you want some color tint). By confirming “Discard Color Information”, the image is reduced to BW. Same thing would be this: the mode “Multichannel” with Grayscale activated contains all the BW information.
Black and White Conversion

The “Secret Method” – Use this BW Conversion Plugin !

A more complicated but far more flexible and with better results, its the conversion using a Photoshop Plug-in. There are many out there on the internet, but I like B/W Conversion from Photo-Plugins because it provides all kind of filters in different tonalities. More than that, it offers full control over each color channel and gamma, as well as some preset configurations: Linear, Photoshop, Agfa, Kodak. It even provides a very good grain function (some photographers enjoy BW with some grain). After the conversion and before applying the changes, the plug-in offers a tone option. This will give sepia, bluish or whatever color tone you wish to the picture, more or less visible.
Note: All your Photoshop plug-ins are under the Filter Menu.

Black and White Conversion Black and White Conversion Greed Filter
The following example shows how I first applied a red filter, and after the conversion, with some contrast/brightness adjustment, the initial red color will appear as white.
This is how i get the white insted of redBlack and White Conversion - red filter

After the conversion, its a good idea to give the picture more contrast, but be careful not to burn the image. Keep a good balance between the details and the contrast: the bigger the contrast, the less details in the image; and if there is too little contrast, the less impressive the image.

Black and White Conversion originalBlack and White Conversion
Black and White Conversion - green filterBlack and White Conversion - red filter

Other photo editing software have similar solutions (another good example is Picasa where the BW conversion is extremely simple: just press a button that offers a BW preview).

[tags]black and white, black and white photography, B&W, B&W photography, BW, BW photography, black&white photography, BW conversion, B&W conversion, black and white conversion, photoshop tips[/tags]

By Laura

I started photography as a hobby in 2005, during college. My passion slowly became a more important part of my life since 2008. Because of using a combination of my photographic knowledge, with those of internet marketing, I like to call myself a "photomarketer".


  1. That tutorial ****.. you didn’t even mention Image, Calculations – WHERE ALL BW CONVERSIONS SHOULD BE DONE.

  2. Very Interesting information. i will defiantly use it for my picture editing. Thanks a lot.

  3. Surely the best method is the new Black & White tool under the image – adjustments menu in Photoshop CS3, it is basically using channels to convert images to black and white but has various presets to enhance the colour conversation.

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