Converting A Color Photo To B&W I

© 2002 Gregory Georges


© 2002 Gregory Georges



© 2002 Gregory Georges


© 2002 Gregory Georges

Purple Iris Canon digital camera D30 EOS mounted on a tripod, 100mm macro, f/2.8 ISO 100, RAW setting, 1/4 @ f/14,1440 x 2160 pixels, edited and converted to 9.3MB .tif

If you shoot black and white film — you have a black and white photo. If you shoot with color film, or use a digital camera and shoot in color mode — you can have either color or excellent black and white images! In fact, you have so much more control over how your black and white images turn out when converting digitally with Photoshop 7, that you may decide it is not worth shooting black and white film ever again.

You have at least eight basic approaches and many variations to convert a color image into a black and white image using Photoshop 7. They are:

1. Convert image to black and white by converting image to a grayscale image by using Image ^ Mode ^ Grayscale.This is the easy way, but usually produces the least desirable results.

2. Desaturate by using Image ^ Adjustments ^ Desaturate (Shift+Ctrl+U). Alternatively, you can use Image ^ Adjustments ^ Hue/Saturation (Ctrl+U) and slide the Saturation slider all the way to the left to a value of 0. This approach is similar to the first approach in terms of control and results.

3. Use Image ^ Mode ^ Lab Color and use the Lightness channel as the black and white image. This approach is easy, straightforward, and can produce excellent results depending on the colors and tones of the original image. We'll use this technique on an image of an iris a little later in this technique.

4. Choose one of the three channels (Red, Green, or Blue) to use as the black and white image. Often times, one of these three channels will be just what you want. At other times, you'll want parts of each of the three channels — mixed. This approach is similar to shooting on black and white film through a color filter and it can lead to some unexpected and yet pleasing results.

5. Use Image ^ Adjustments ^ Channel Mixer and create your own mix of two or more of the channels. This approach gives you the most control and we look at it in detail in Technique 15.

6. Create new images comprised of two or more channels; then mix these layers using Opacity.

7. Select two or more channels; then combine them using Calculations.

8. Use a third party Photoshop 7 compatible plug-in, such as Convert to B&W Pro, which has been designed specifically to convert color images into black and white images. Whenever I convert color images to black and white, I almost always use Convert to B&W Pro as it gives you so much control over how the image looks. You read more about this plug-in in Technique 38.



| Channels \

1 Lab



TP^P Lightness





^ ■ , b Orl+3



In this technique, you use Lab Color mode and the Lightness channel to create a black and white image.


■ Choose File ^ Open (Ctrl+O) to display the Open dialog box. Double-click the /14 folder to open it and then click the iris-before.tif file to select it. Click Open to open the file.


■ Choose Image ^ Mode ^ Lab Color to convert from RGB to Lab Color mode. Lab Mode is constructed according to how color actually exists and how our eyes perceive it — a magenta-green relationship, a yellow-blue relationship, and a lightness (or black-white) relationship.

■ Open the Channels palette if it is not already open by choosing Window ^ Channels.The Channels palette should now look like the one shown in Figure 14.3. Notice that there is a Lightness channel — this channel represents how bright a color is and so it is an ideal channel to use alone for a black and white image.


■ Choose Image ^ Mode ^ Grayscale.Ifthe warning box "Discard color information?"appears, click OK to convert the image to a grayscale by using the Lightness channel. Your image should now look like the one shown in Figure 14.2.

■ If you need an RGB image, convert it back to RGB by choosing Image ^ Mode ^ RGB.

After completing this technique, try Technique 15 and Technique 38; compare the results of each of these approaches to determine their suitability for your images.

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