It’s a colourful world, filled with a wonderful array of hues, which change throughout the day, treating us to a kaleidoscope from dawn to dusk. It’s not any secret how fond I am of this vibrancy, portraying the world in its myriad of shades through digital photography.
A black and white image is often equally vibrant however, the contrasts of shade can sometimes be even more striking. They seem especially effective in portraying urban scenes, industrial or agricultural machinery, or wastelands.
The greater the contrast, the more effective the image can appear, dramatic skies convert especially well to the black and white format. Most of us have probably also admired many powerful portraits rendered in the honesty of monochrome.
Often these images are so captivating that even a self-confessed colour junkie like me cannot keep ignoring the many shades of grey. They often stand out when editing images, even though they are in glorious technicolour the potential as for black and white is obvious.
Publishing in both colour and monochrome formats adds interest, variety and will make a site more appealing to a wider audience.
The world is often a desaturated one, and it doesn’t even need any manipulating at times. Early morning winter shots in snow-covered mountains, or seascapes can often appear drained of colour. Light exposes the hues properly, just as it is capable of producing a warm glow or a golden shroud over the landscape, it can just as effectively desaturate a scene.
It may seem sensible to capture images using the black and white mode on the camera, but in the digital age this is merely restricting any options. Capturing in full colour and making adjustments afterwards retaining the option to use both formats. Many scenes seem equally striking in both formats, so limiting the choices doesn’t seem sensible.
Another benefit of digital photography is the levels of post-capture manipulation which are possible during the editing phase. There are also several options available for converting to black and white, depending on the editing software used. Most have a simple convert option, which is acceptable for website publishing, but using the desaturation or grayscale tools are not recommended at all. Some preferred methods are below:
Gradient Map – A relatively simple conversion method, selecting a black to white gradient won’t remove any colour value, it will merely replace it with a shade within the chosen gradient. There several gradient options available, offering other cool effects like vintage or film.
Channel Mixer – Selecting the channel mixer in the adjustment layer allows the user to make non-destructive changes to the image. Checking the monochrome option and then moving the red, green and blue sliders allows fine tonal adjustments to be made, take care not to blow out the whites however.
There are several other cool effects, which layers enable us, one of the best is colour popping. After adding an adjustment layer and then converting it to black and white, just use the eraser tool to bring out the colour from a particular area. Zooming in while reducing the size of the brush when working around the edges, and employing careful strokes should make sure that only the required area comes through in glorious colour.
Next time you’re looking through the portfolio you’ll probably see plenty of photographs that are suitable for conversion to black and white. I suggest choosing a few and experimenting to see what dramatic, and interesting images can be produced. I’m sure you enjoy a colourful scene as much as I do, but hopefully can also appreciate the beauty of the black and white palette too.