B&W Conversions

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by sebascrub, Apr 26, 2011.

  1. sebascrub macrumors member

    Jun 2, 2007
    Calgary, AB
    I've been playing with black and white conversions for a while, paying attention to what people are posting here and on other forums. Like everything else in photography, it seems like there are a million and one ways to go about converting to b&w! I've seen some truly amazing shots and I always struggle to replicate the process, so I'm starting this thread so we can share our b&w conversions and hopefully learn a couple of tips and tricks in the process.

    Here's my latest attempt, done with the trial version of Silver Efex Pro 2. I really love how much better/easier it is than the original version! I feel like it gives the photo a much more pronounced edge to it, feels much more 3D. At the very least, my lovely muse likes the way it turned out, so it can't be too bad!

    DSC_3808 by sebascrub, on Flickr

    I started with one of the Modern presets, the first one, if I remember correctly. From there, I mostly tweaked the Dynamic Brightness slider and the Soft Contrast slider. I also bumped up the Structure a bit to bring out her freckles.

    Comments? Questions? Concerns? Deep dark secrets? I know the composition is a bit weird: for some reason, I always have my subjects looking out of the frame, rather than into empty space. I can't tell if I like breaking that "rule" or not, but it seems to happen naturally.
  2. jammiefreerider macrumors regular

    Aug 23, 2006
    B+W conversion Looks good to me. The only thing Id say would be remove the moles on her neck. They just look like dirt and spoil things in that area. The freckles on her nose dont come out well as freckles so probably best to smooth and lighten them.

    One thing Chase Jarvis (hes an expert, Im not) said about B+W is that a B+W picture its much more affctive if theres black and white in it. ie 100% black and 100% white in the photo so its not just a flat mix of grey. In your photo, brighten the whites of her eyes to 100% white (adjust the rest of image so the effect is less vampirish) and darken the shadows in the hair next to the face to 100% black. You'll have a punchier image.

    Hope this helps :)
  3. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    I agree 100%.

    You can find lots of good advice in books written in the 50's or 60's. Ansel Adams is relevant here. He said that B&W can be very heavily manipulated to the point where tones are radically altered but the eye can still see it as natural. He went on to say that this does not apply at all to color photography. He had other advice like "edge burning" and how to mount and frame that is worth going back and reading. So it is worth reviewing 50 and 60 year old books and also the work done by people like Edward Weston and his sons.

    You even compose differently in B&W. B&W photo is more about line and form and light.

    One big problem with all DSLR conversions is that the digital camera can't capture the range of light that film can. I think B&W film can get about 3 more stops of range if you expose and process "correctly". It would be worth buying a film body if you shoot much B&W. They are cheap on the used market and then you scan the film. Another idea is HDR. Mostly it looks fake but could work in B&W.
  4. Mr Garbaggio, Apr 26, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2011

    Mr Garbaggio macrumors newbie

    Aug 28, 2010

    This reminds me of a Macy's catalogue pic or something. I really wish I had this lens but unfortunately it's my brothers :(. It's a Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8
  5. sebascrub thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 2, 2007
    Calgary, AB
    Thanks for the advice! I'm terrible at skin smoothing, so I left it for now, but I'll go back and try working on it some more.

    That's a great point about making 100% blacks and 100% whites. I never thought about that, but may as well make use of as much monochromatic range as possible.

    Coincidentally, what got me started thinking about B&W conversions was film photography. I recently bought a Yashica 35 GSN off eBay and just finished running my first roll of B&W film (Ilford FP4 125) through it. I have to wait for it to be developed, which is going to take a while since they have to send it off. In the meantime, I thought about converting pre-existing photos!

    I like this one a lot! Tons of depth in the photo and good use of light.

    Keep the conversions coming! There is so much to learn!
  6. SchneiderMan macrumors G3


    May 25, 2008
    Converted to B&W using Adobe Lightroom

    Shot using a D7000 with a 35mm lens at f/1.8
  7. unclet macrumors member

    Apr 22, 2011
    Bloomington, IN
    As long as you're trying out Nik software plugins, you might want to download the trial version of Color Efex Pro. It has a great skin smoothing filter in it (I think it's called "Dynamic Skin Softening") that makes it really simple and looks great. I usually apply some filters in Color Efex Pro before doing B&W conversion in Silver Efex Pro 2, and the results are usually very good.
  8. carlgo macrumors 68000

    Dec 29, 2006
    Monterey CA
    I've been shooting film for B&W and then scanning it. I like the results. Seems better to me than conversions, but it is hard to tell if this is due to the film "look" or because I know it is film, or what.

    In any case it isn't that hard to develop B&W and scan it, and the old film cameras are terrific and cheap. You can buy that camera you used to lust after, but couldn't afford back then.
  9. andalusia macrumors 68030


    Apr 10, 2009
    Manchester, UK
    I've just posted this in POTD, but what the hell.
    young at heart by tristangage, on Flickr

    Camera Canon EOS 500D
    Exposure 0.003 sec (1/400)
    Aperture f/8.0
    Focal Length 120 mm
    ISO Speed 100

    Converted in Lightroom.

    I've done a few B+W conversions recently. I don't really fancy taking pictures IN black and white because then if you want colour later you can't put it back in, plus i'm not sure if my camera does it or not. However some photos just ask for B+W! This one I believe needed B+W.
  10. alvindarkness, Apr 30, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2011

    alvindarkness macrumors 6502a

    Jul 11, 2009
    I've only done a few B&W conversions, but I generally spend a bunch of time mixing the RGB channels to get a final look I'm happy with. Like the previous poster said, things can be manipulated far more in B&W and still look natural (or borderline natural if its what you are going for). The below was done in Aperture, most of the manipulation is the usual stuff - apart from some radical RGB channel changes I wouldnt think of doing in a colour print.

    Memorial Cross by alvindarkness, on Flickr
  11. kallisti macrumors 65816


    Apr 22, 2003
    I'm a fan of Silver Efex pro. I think it does a nice job and offers intuitive controls. Lots of tweaking options if you really dig into it too.

    Nice image. Keep posting :)
  12. sebascrub thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 2, 2007
    Calgary, AB
    Cool! I really like the stark effect on this one. What do you mean by radical RGB changes? Similar to applying a colour filter?

    Here's one of my friend that I tried to make nice and soft, like an old photo.

    DSC_2630 by sebascrub, on Flickr
  13. jammiefreerider macrumors regular

    Aug 23, 2006
    My humble critic:

    The Cross (Alvindarkness) and the Speaker (Schneiderman) are my 2 favourites so far. Great b+w conversion, strong subjects and backgrounds which aren't too busy and help put the subject in context.

    Mr Garbaggio's one I think if it was just a picture of the child and the light it would be awesomely awesome.

    tristangage, I think that not all photos benefit from being in black and white. I think (based on little experience) b+w are best with simple compositions with strong subjects.
  14. jammiefreerider, May 1, 2011
    Last edited: May 1, 2011

    jammiefreerider macrumors regular

    Aug 23, 2006
    Was trying to upload a photo of mine but its not working :( Ill try again tomorrow
  15. Keleko macrumors 68000

    Mar 26, 2008
    Okay, this was not a difficult conversion. I just used the pinhole effect in Camera+. Someone liked it so much they bought an 8x10 print of it. The framing, subject and perspective I used just all worked out just right for it.


    This one was also done with Camera+ using "silver gelatin" for the conversion.

  16. jammiefreerider macrumors regular

    Aug 23, 2006
    This is done in Silver Efex Pro as well. A smidge of tinting to add more depth. What do you think?

    Attached Files:

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