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Creating a black-and-white interpretation of a color photo

From: Photoshop CS6 Image Optimization Workshop

Video: Creating a black-and-white interpretation of a color photo

Many photographers, myself included, have a fondness for the black and white image. And sometimes even when part of the motivation for taking the photo in the first place was color, it can be fun to explore a black and white interpretation. Let's take a look at just how easy it is to convert a color image to black and white using Photoshop. I'll start off by adding a black and white adjustment layer. So at the bottom of the layers panel I'll click on the Add New Adjustment Layer button and then choose black and white from the pop up menu. That will add a black and white adjustment layer to our layers panel and also present the controls on the properties panel for our black and white conversion.

Creating a black-and-white interpretation of a color photo

Many photographers, myself included, have a fondness for the black and white image. And sometimes even when part of the motivation for taking the photo in the first place was color, it can be fun to explore a black and white interpretation. Let's take a look at just how easy it is to convert a color image to black and white using Photoshop. I'll start off by adding a black and white adjustment layer. So at the bottom of the layers panel I'll click on the Add New Adjustment Layer button and then choose black and white from the pop up menu. That will add a black and white adjustment layer to our layers panel and also present the controls on the properties panel for our black and white conversion.

You can see that in this case the initial result is not all that good. And sometimes you'll find that's simply the case. But we can exercise tremendous control over the adjustment. The way the black and white adjustment works is that we can brighten or darken specific values within the image. In other words, the reds slider allows us to brighten and darken pixels that had red in them from the start. You could always turn off the adjustment in order to see what values were there to begin with, but we can also work directly on the image. You might like to adjust the individual sliders, but we can also use our targeted adjustment tool. We can click on that targeted adjustment tool button, at the top left of the properties panel.

And then simply point to an area that we would like to lighten or darken, and click and drag to the right to brighten, or left to darken. In this case, I think the interior of the flower is best as a relatively light shade, but then I can point toward other areas of the image. For example, we have these baby blue eyes, and they probably would be better served if they were a little bit darker. Notice that each of these flowers has a little bit of a different color value to it, and so we can adjust them a little bit individually. It looks like the balance between cyans, blues and magentas between these flowers was just a little bit different.

So, again, we can work with the individual sliders or point to the image and click and drag in order to adjust the sliders remotely as it were by working directly in the image. I think I'll continue adjusting the yellows here. I want just a little hint of grey in that portion of the image. I believe the interior here is also going to be the same value. So, somewhere right about there, perhaps, is a good starting point. As much as I like working with the on image adjustment, very often I'll go back to the sliders and fine-tune each of them just to make sure that I'm producing the best result possible.

This gives me an opportunity to experiment around a little bit and also to see which areas of the image are affected by a given slider. You can see here for example there are virtually no greens in the image. As I move the slider left and right, I'm seeing no change at all in the photo. I'll take a look at the magentas as well and that' s mostly affecting that background area. I think I'll darken that down just a little bit. So that gives us a reasonably good starting point for our black and white conversion. One of the things to keep in mind is that the black and white adjustment is, in my mind, just a starting point for your overall adjustment for the photo.

You'll very often want to make other adjustments to fine-tune the image. For example, in many cases, I will add a curves adjustment layer, once I've started with a black and white conversion in order to enhance the overall appearance of the image. I think that's giving me a pretty good starting point. I'll continue playing around with the image, possibly even applying some targeted adjustments, for example enhancing contrast only in the center of the middle flower here, but that gives you a sense of just how easily we can interpret an image from color into black and white.

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Photoshop CS6 Image Optimization Workshop

28 video lessons · 465 viewers

Tim Grey
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