There are several factors that go into creating a lovely black and white image. Of course, there is one very important factor that we all know about, lighting. No matter how hard you try, you aren’t going to get a beautiful black and white if you haven’t used the light well. Personally, I love conversions that are hazy and backlit but I also love side light and contrast.
Today, I’m going to show you how I convert an image that I shot using side light. This was actually shot in my garage where my daughter was lying on the floor. This image is straight out of the camera. I knew I was going to convert this image so I underexposed it on purpose.
Here are the steps I took to convert the image:
1. Apply gradient map. You can do this by going to Levels > New Adjustment Level > Gradient Map or by simply clicking the black and white half circle in the layers palette.
2. The default is purple so just change that to black and white.
3. Next I want to adjust the contrast and I do that with a levels adjustment. Again, you can use the menu at the top (Levels > New Adjustment Layer > Levels) or by clicking the black and white half circle in the layers palette and choose levels.
4. By moving the sliders you can adjust the contrast of your image. I like a lot of contrast most of the time.
5. Now I want to add a gradient fill by going to the menu up top and choosing Levels or by clicking the black and white circle again.
6. Once again, PSE is trying to make me choose a purple gradient. When the dialog box opens you can change the fill a bit by checking the Reverse box. I chose to reverse the fill on this image because I wanted it to be a tad darker on the top rather than the bottom of the image. Then, choose black and white from the drop down menu in that same dialog box.
7. I adjusted the fill layer to taste. Which, was a very low opacity, but I like the look it added to the image.
8. I flattened the image once I had it just as I liked. Then, I cropped it a bit, cloned out the straps of her dress, and burned the edges at 25%. I did not burn the sides where the light is coming in as I wanted the light to fall off a bit.
9. Also, if you would like to have a more matte look, simply add a new levels adjustment layer and slide the left output slider to the right (the very bottom slider in the levels box).
And there you have it! That’s the way I convert images to black and white in PSE.
Once again, thank you for the incredible PSE tutorial Melissa! Is that how you convert to black and white? We’d love to hear what tools you use! Please share with us in the comments below!
Melissa Gibson, Georgia
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Melissa is a proud MWAC who gears up with a Nikon D700, prime lenses, and edits her “fun, childlike, and whimsical” photography solely in Photoshop Elements. Melissa’s goal both now and when she first began her photography journey in 2005 is to, in her own words, “remember my girls’ lives for them. They are so young yet growing so quickly. I know they won’t remember it all so I feel it’s my job to document it for them.”