Best and Worst Ways to Convert Your Photos to Black and White

Turning a color photo into black and white isn’t as simple as it sounds. Some quick tips provide an idea on the dos and don’ts for post-processing.

Shooting in color and converting to black and white in post is an approach preferred by many photographers for its advantages. But, that’s for another post. Today, we assume this is the route you’ve chosen, whether to help ascertain which methods work for you, or as your standard practice. To help you get the best results out of post-processing for black and white photography, we bring some tips on the best and worst ways to convert color snaps.

In his tutorial, Chris Spooner gives a quick rundown of the Photoshop and Lightroom tools we have at hand when it comes to black and white photography, each of them producing different results. He also classifies them as best and worst methods and explains why. Some of these tools may not be familiar to some of you yet, so we highly recommend checking out the video!

A lot of photographers who are just starting out typically make the mistake of simply desaturating or choosing the grayscale mode when they convert images to black and white. However, these are among the worst ways to edit, and should be avoided in favor of better methods. By desaturating or converting to grayscale, you are essentially just removing the colors while disregarding the tonality of the image. This ultimately creates monochrome images with a boring, washed-out appearance.

So, which are the tools and techniques to go for? Fortunately, there are more options that do much better and can be applied as adjustment layers so they keep the original image intact. Most likely the go-to tool of more intermediate photographers, the Channel Mixer and its Monochrome option targets the colors individually so you can balance the tonal range for each color and come to the best contrast for the shot. The Black and White adjustment layer has since replaced the Channel Mixer and essentially has the same controls, with the addition of extra color sliders and options for certain effects. In Lightroom, you can do the same using the Black & White Mix option. Lastly, there’s the Gradient Map, which you can use to add extra creative effects for more impact in your final monochrome snap.

Check out the Spoon Graphics YouTube channel for more useful Photoshop tutorials for your photography projects.

Screenshot image from the video