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One of my favorite techniques is Camera RAW's ability to completely customize the way that an image is converted to black and white, because it allows you complete control over how each color range gets converted to grayscale. Let's open up this ThreeHouses JPEG file in Camera RAW by using Cmd + r or Ctrl + r on Windows. Unfortunately, if you start in the basic panel then your first instinct might be to use either the vibrance or saturation slider in order to convert this image to grey scale but Camera Raw has much more powerful tools. So I'll double click on the saturation slider to reset it and then we're going to click on the HSL grey scale panel.
If you're looking for a very simple, one button solution, then I would choose the option to convert to grayscale. You'll notice that the conversion actually isn't just a straight conversion. But, camera raw is analyzing each image individually. And it's going to create an auto conversion, based on all of the values in the colors. In the image. Now if you don't like this or you want to compare it to just a default convesion, you can do so by just clicking on the default button. Personally, I like the auto button, so I would go ahead and click on that.
Of course, I can always manually override how this images is converted to gray scale by using any of the different sliders. So for example, if I move the red slider to the left you can see that everything that was originally red in the color image. Becomes much darker. If I move it all the way to the right, we can see that it lightens the area. So if I toggle the preview on and off using the p key, we can see all of the areas here that are red that it's affecting. We'll toggle it back on, and then we can go ahead and move the slider to refine it.
Let's go ahead and make the conversion of the reds a little bit lighter. As well as the oranges. And then we'll scoot down to the greens, and I'll go ahead and darken the foreground. You can see what a much different conversion this is than the default. Likewise, I can go the other way, I could make the foreground greens a lot brighter, and we could take the oranges and the reds and make them a lot darker. One thing to keep in mind is, you don't really want one single slider to be moving to the extreme and have a lot of space between the next slider.
So I would just back off a little bit here and maybe also see if there weren't any aquas in my image. That might need to go more closer to greens, because what you don't want to do is you don't want to be able to see the difference between how the greens were converted and the aquas were converted because there might be different areas, in the grass for example, that contain both those colors. Same with the yellow, I might want to be careful with that and just kind of move it up a little bit more towards the greens. You can see that in the foreground and in this background area here, there's a lot of yellow that is also making up that area and I don't want a harsh jump from one color range to another. So I want to make sure this kind of stays in some kind of like an S curve here. Well it doesn't have to be an S, it just needs to be a little bit balanced, you don't want any huge extremes.
So to review, I just try to stay away from simply de-saturating your image in the basic panel. And instead, convert it to grayscale using this HSL grayscale panel. And then use the sliders to refine the conversion to your preference.
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