Changing Your Photographs From Colour to Black and White

May 2, 2013

Time was when photographers had to choose between colour and black and white before taking the photograph. The film was chosen and the photograph taken in that order! Today, with a majority of photographers using digital equipment we now have the time and luxury of choosing retrospectively. Not only that, it is possible to easily and quickly see what the image looks like both in black and white and colour almost at the touch of a button.


So, why still photograph in black and white? Surely black and white photography is a thing of the past, an echo of the early days of photographic technology before colour film was invented? Well, the truth is that black and white photography is flourishing in all areas of photography both amateur and professional. Just take a look at here at this London wedding photographer to see how popular black and white photography still is in the wedding world. In fine art photography and landscape photography black and white holds it’s own and a large number of photojournalists still work in the medium.


A black and white photograph has a unique quality. Black and white makes the viewer look at the shapes and composition of the image, it loses any distracting colours and has a sense of purity and craftsmanship that often a colour image will lack. We all have subconscious ideas of black and white images being more “arty”, more worthy and creative. That’s not to say that converting a bad colour photograph into black and white will improve it, it’s just that a good black and white image will have a power and strength all of its own.


Converting an image to black and white is relatively straight forward. There are a number of different plug ins and actions available for various black and white effects but I am going to describe a straight forward photoshop conversion. Firstly open the image in photshop by going to file and open. Then click on image, then mode and then convert to grayscale. Click OK to discard all colour information and then the conversion is complete. It is always a good idea to then convert back into RGB so that any subtle toning can be done. This is just the same as above, go to the same menu and click convert to RGB. The image will remain in black and white but will be in RGB.


With some practice it becomes possible to see which pictures will work better in black and white and which in colour before you press the shutter. Practice converting from one to the other and decide which you prefer and why. Many images will look fine in either, some will only really work in colour and some will obviously need to be black and white. As with everything practice and with time you eye, and your photography will improve.





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