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My Current Black And White Method (Thanks Victor!)

Abandoned Buildings, Priddys Hard. 41 of 365.I've always struggled with black and white conversions, often pushing them too far, but thanks to Victor W, I've got a method that I'm pretty happy with.

I've put together a short tutorial to explain the method, which works in Photoshop and Elements, and can be adapted to other photo-editing software. You can see Victor's original method here. (My method is a slight variation).

The thinking behind this technique is that by converting to pure black and white, (or grayscale), we're limited to only 256 different shades of grey because that's all the data a jpg image can store. By adding a hint of colour, we're introducing a lot more shades of (almost) grey, to give us a little more "elbow room" when editing. It should help to reduce issues like banding in areas of similar tonal values (like the sky) too.

Lets Get Started!

OK, fire up Photoshop or Elements, load up your photo, then create a duplicate layer, so that we're not working on the original:


Now we're going to add a curves layer to add a bit more contrast. You could uses levels instead, and the amount of adjustment is up to you, and because we're working in Layers it'll all be easily changed later on:


Now it's time to add a black and white adjustment layer. If your version of Adobe Photoshop or Elements doesn't include the b & w adjustment layer, use the channel mixer or hue / sat. adjustment layer instead. (I've explained these black and white techniques in this article).


Now we're going to add a color balance layer. This is the bit that'll change our black and white to one that includes a hint of colour. In this example the photo gets a slightly blue, cold cast, but if you use 3,0,-3 instead, you'll add a slightly orange, warmer cast.


Now we're going to punch in even more contrast with a curves adjustment layer. Again, you could use levels instead. Make sure you change the blend mode to "luminescence" so it doesn't affect our slight colour cast.


Now it's time to have a look at our photo and make any changes. Here's a quick guide to what you can easily adjust:


You could really work on the photo by using layer masks to change local contrast in specific areas - check out this post for an easy guide.

That's it really, so have a play with black and white, add a little colour, and see if it improves your work.

Here's my finished image:

Abandoned Buildings, Priddys Hard. 41 of 365.

Cheers, Rob.

Reader Comments (1)

Hi Rob!

Woah! Thank you very much for the thanks and what a good tutorial too. (Yours I mean!)
Nice to see a good step by step method rather than the 'blethering' I did.

Hope things are well with you.

All the Best,


February 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterVictor

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