Digitally Converting Color to Black & White
Text & Photographs By Glen  © All rights reserved.

There is a current resurgence and rediscovery of the art of B&W photography. It is a powerful medium when used correctly and has a feel to it that color cannot replicate. I do hold color work very highly but I am drawn to the power of the B&W medium, which not only has influence my color work but also is the very roots of my photographic journey.
 
There are many ways to convert your digital files from color the B&W. Many are just plain clumsy. After trying many of the methods in Photoshop, I have come to rely on several Plugins which make the conversion more controlled with their excellent interfaces.
 
First, if you are a jpeg shooter there is an excellent and free plugin from OptikVerve Labs called Virtual Photographer. It has an excellent B&W conversion and some interesting presets as well. I have seen some stunning work done with this program but very rarely use it myself as it is compatible with 8 bit files only. Working with 16 bit files is too important to me.
 
Nik Multimedia has a set of B&W conversion filters available in their excellent plugin, Color Efex Pro 2.0. One, B&W Conversion is available in their Select edition and two more, B&W Conversion: Tonal Enhancer and B&W: Dynamic Contrast are available, along with all filters in the Complete Edition. The Complete Edition and the Select Edition have many more excellent filters that do much more than just convert to B&W. You are given a lot of control with these converters. The previews could be bigger but you can view your images at 100% and pan around to see all areas or you can “fit to screen”. Overall this is one of my must have plugins, not only for the B&W Converters but for the very useful list of filters they offer. One is a very useful Paper Toner filter. List price for the Complete Edition is $300 and $160 for the Select Edition. You can find the Complete Edition at Amazon for $200. I was first introduced to Nik Color Efex Pro when I received 8 free filters with my Wacom tablet. All of Nik’s plugins work with 16 bit or 8 bit files.
 
A powerful B&W converter comes in the Fred Miranda plugin, BW Workflow Pro. It offers many options and features for amazing control when creating your B&W image. This is one of my favorites and has helped me turn out some good solid work. It retails for $30 at Fred Miranda’s site. It works with 16 bit or 8 bit files.

This image was converted using Fred Miranda’s BW Workflow Pro
© Glen

I have saved the best for last, The Imagingfactory’s Convert To B&W Pro 3.0. This is my favorite converter bar none for its wonderful display, interface and ultimate control. The prefilter tab lets you choose the color filter you want like the other converters but in Convert to B&W Pro, you can choose any shade of filter in between as well as any intensity of that filter. The Color Response tab lets you to set the equivalent of various B&W film types such as Agfa, Ilford and Kodak products used in analogue film cameras. There are presets for their tonal and color responses. The contrast tab sets brightness levels and contrast. I find this best done judiciously here and fine-tuned in Photoshop’s excellent Curves which gives control that is so much more detailed. Finally, the Sepia tab lets you tone your image with any hue and any intensity. This top choice plugin goes for an expensive, $100 but I have been more than pleased with everything about it. They do give you a 30-day free trial which makes trying it out easy and no risk. It works with 16 bit or 8 bit files.
 
B&W work is not only a stunning art form, but is also a powerful tool that will enhance your whole photography experience even when later working with color. Your “eye” becomes more important than ever. I shot B&W exclusively in the first year of my photographic awakening and think it can help any photographer in their own work. Be a part of the B&W renaissance and discover where the medium can take you in the digital world.


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