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In this lesson we'll explore some of the concepts related to creating black and white images from a color original. I realize it's a bit of a cliche but photography is all about light. Generally speaking that means capturing not just the intensity of the light but also the color of the light. In a black and white image, however, we're focusing exclusively on the tonality, or luminance levels, of the light in various areas of the image. Without color to provide a creative element or a distraction within the image, the focus becomes purely about texture and tonality.
The relative brightness and contrast play a much larger role in the overall interpretation of the photo. Texture can take on a leading role, sometimes even being more important than the overall composition itself. When deciding which images might work in a black and white version, it's important to think about the role of color within the image and about the potential for a black and white version to perhaps be more impactful. In this case, I have an image that contains a reasonable amount of color. While working on the photo, I felt I wanted an interpretation that was a little more brooding. I also really like the texture in the gravel and sand, so I played with a black and white interpretation.
I've already added a black and white adjustment here. So I'll turn it on so you can see what I've come up with so far. It seems to me, after seeing both the color and the black and white versions of this image, that the color in the original is actually slightly distracting from the mood of the image. I like the texture as it's presented in black and white, and I like that the photo takes on something of a more somber tone once the color is removed. The process of converting an image to black and white is simply a matter of taking the existing color information and translating it to represent specific tonal information.
There's a wide variety of ways you can go about this process, and by exploring a number of those methods, you'll find there are potentially countless options for creatively interpreting your photographic images. Chances are, along the way you'll have a lot of fun too.
- Understanding channels
- Using the Lab color mode
- Adding a black-and-white adjustment layer
- Adding a color tint
- Applying a Curves adjustment
- Using the Gradient Map adjustment
- Adding a vignette or film grain
- Dodging and burning
- Selective black-and-white