Converting pictures to black and white is rewarding… some pictures just scream for black and white conversion. However, it’s initially rather difficult to foresee how good a picture may look once converted to black and white.
Finding Good Candidates for Black and White Conversion
When looking at a picture in Adobe Lightroom, I often click on the black and white conversion option in the develop module. This helps me appreciate the potential of the picture. If I like what I see in Lightroom, I then use a more specialized tool such as Silver eFex Pro 2 (part of the Google/Nik Collection) for the conversion.
Long Exposure Conversion to Black and White
I really like this first picture of the Terrebonne, QC watermill and its dam. What looks like a picture taken at night is in fact taken after sunrise. The sun was directly facing the right side of the building and the building’s left side was in shadow. The sky and water were mostly blue. Using a yellow filter, I darkened the sky and water to achieve this result. When I shot the image, I used a 30-second exposure and a neutral density filter. The water and sky are devoid of detail which directs attention to the sharp and nicely lit watermill.
When the sky and water take a large portion of the frame, long (30 seconds) and very long (multiples minutes) exposures generally produce great images for black and white conversion.
Black and White Conversion Enhances Texture
This second image of a St. Petersburg cathedral is one of my favorite black and white conversions for other reasons. Although this image is very nice in color, the textures and details are more visible in the black and white version. The sun was already high in the sky so there was plenty of light; however, the fine details may have been lost with even the slightest camera movement. A sturdy tripod helped ensure that all small details were preserved at the time of capture.
In the unconverted version of the same picture, texture is less apparent. In Silver Efex Pro 2, I used the tint and intensity slider in the color filter section to make sure the texture displayed bold and crisp.
Creating an Older Look Through Black and White Conversion
I took this third picture on Mauna Kea with Varina Patel during the most recent photo workshop in Hawaii. Unfortunately for Jay Patel and Patrick Cassidy, a ranger had ordered them back to the visitor center.
I positioned my tripod so the telescope would be facing the Milky Way. The silvery clouds below the horizon created a strange perspective. The color version of this picture is very nice however, in black and white, it looks older… we are accustomed to seeing old Milky Way photos in black and white.
As you can see, there are multiple reasons you may consider converting a picture to black and white: to create a mood, to enhance textures, or simply to reduce the distractions that are associated with colors. Two of the above photos were displayed at a local photography exhibition. The process of selecting, post-processing, printing, and showcasing my work is important for my personal growth. I would encourage you to do the same.
Please tell me about your own black and white conversions. Tell me the why, the how, and more importantly where I can view your work. You can count on my honest feedback… I really enjoy looking at the creativity of photographers.