Everybody is in search of that perfect black & white conversion. There are so many actions out there and so many different ways to convert. You need to take into consideration that not every photo is going to make a nice black and white. So what makes an image a good candidate for a black and white conversion? Good light and a wide tonal range. When you find a conversion you love, you’ll probably discover that what works for one image, may not work for another. There are so many techniques out there. I want to show you one of many easy ways to make a nice conversion that offers you plenty of flexibility to make it work on most images.
The image I chose has both good light and a nice tonal range, making it a good candidate for a black and white conversion. I like to fix my white balance and exposure before working on my conversion as it gives me a better starting point. This image is ready to go.
Believe it or not, I start by simply desaturating my image. I do this by choosing hue/saturation from the adjustment panel and pulling the saturation slider all the way to the left.
My image now looks like this. Pretty boring, a bit muddy and just not great. It needs contrast and depth.
So what I’m going to do is add a curves adjustment layer and change the blend mode to soft light. This will add contrast and depth, giving it a “pop”.
Next I am going to add 2 levels adjustments (if you’re familiar with curves you can set this up in curves as well). I am going to set the first levels adjustment up to darken the midtones and shadows and the second levels adjustment up to lighten midtones and add a bit of contrast.
At this point I am going to select all 3 layers and press ctrl/cmd + G to group them together and I’m going to go through and rename everything. I changed hue/saturation to black and white base, layer 2 to pop, layer 3 to lighten and layer 4 to darken. By grouping those 3 layers together, I am able to adjust the opacity and mask all 3 layers combined as 1, if I choose to. Of course, I am still able to adjust the opacity and mask all 3 layers individually as well.
At this point, my image is looking better but it still doesn’t look great. It’s a bit dark.
So now I go in and tweak all my layers. I can add masks and I can lower the layer opacity of each layer. I left the pop layer at 100%, changed lighten to 60% and darken to 15%. I like the way that looks. Don’t forget that you can also tweak the settings in the levels panel of the lighten and darken layers if you wish for more or less of an effect.
If you want to change your brush opacity while masking, simply select your brush by clicking on it in the toolbar or by pressing B on your keyboard. Once your brush is selected you will see brush options in the menu options bar
After the Hue/Saturation Adjustment
If you try this conversion out and you want to share, we’d love to see your images. You can attach them in the comments! This would also be super easy to make into an action. You can see the Photoshop Friday post on creating an action here.