Stephen Johnson Tutorial: Color to Black and White
(excerpt from the book Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography unreleased revised electronic version)
Black and White or Color? A question that has changed in some fundamental ways in this digital age. Now we almost always make our photographs in color through Bayer pattern filters spread across our sensors filtering the light into red, green and blue.
If we want black and white, for the most part, we are starting in color. This is frustrating on one level, because it means if we want black and white, we have to derive the color first, then transform the photograph into grayscale.. This lowers the resolution of the file as compared to what it would be without the color filters.
But there are also some wonderful advantages. It means the black and white world we derive from color (albeit, now on the computer) can be almost anything we imagine, or stumble into through experimentation. The Black and White Adjustment Layer in Photoshop further enables a level of customization that it is almost unbelievable. We can experiment with conversions, customize different areas with masks, and re-imagine the nature of what a black and white photograph can be.
Although Grayscale (BW) conversion can be done in Camera Raw, Lightroom, Capture One and other raw processors, I prefer Photoshop because of the masking and control, allowing different areas to be converted in different ways, as shown below.
From July 2011 Newsletter: Black and White Selective Conversion. Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park. Maine. 2011.
In the example here, the color file provided the raw material for separating the BW conversion into dark stems on glowing leaves. It's a major tonal shift, but demonstrates the flexibility of the process.
Photographs and Text Copyright ©2012 by Stephen Johnson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
More Tutorials, Technical discussions and Essays are linked from the Techniques Button on our Home page.
Interested in learning more? Perhaps one of our digital photography classes would be of help? We take the imparting of information and the empowerment of our students quite seriously. The digital age has considerably enhanced our ability to teach, and we believe your ability to capture what you see. This program is designed to help you benefit from both of these advances. We hope you can join us on a workshop.
Flora and Form: from Orchid Gardens to Digital Lab
Digital Photography Series:
Raw to Print: Summer Digital Bootcamp
Digital Photography Series: Beauty in Photography: Inspiration and Composition. June 14, 2014
Fine Art Digital Printing Hands-on
Acadia National Park
Maine Media Workshop Sessions
White Mountains, Eastern Sierra and the Full Moon.
Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra
For a full list of current workshops, click here.