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Black And White Photography-III — Utilizing The Power Of Colors

Post-processing is not the choice of purists. But if you’ve chosen to shoot in color and convert to black and white, it is a part of the deal. Welcome to the third part of the series on Black and White Photography which comes after a big pause – let’s welcome a new member in the family In part 1 we saw how classy black and white photography is. In part 2 we explored all the elements of composition in black and white photography.

To have better control for black and white processing it is advised to capture as much information as possible which we can use later to our advantage. Thus shooting in RAW and color is recommended. This allows for great flexibility in post processing. However in this particular context, shooting in color has its distinct advantages. The presence of color information allows us to alter it for our purpose and bring out the results to our preference. Let’s see how we can do so.

Converting color into black and white takes new dimensions when it comes to playing with hues and saturation. Here are the various ways you can convert into black and white.

  • Basic: The easiest and the most straight forward way to convert color into black and white is to desaturate the colors in the image. This will give results identical to what the (black and white) camera sees.
  • Advanced: When you have colors in your image you can artificially alter the colors to get a desired effect in contrast etc. when you alter various parameters related to color like hue and saturation.

Advanced black and white conversion

  • Changing Hue: Hue is another term for color. A shifting in the hue results in different colors. With the colors manipulated the areas is the grayscale image will change colors resulting in different contrast and lightness. This gives you the flexibility and control over contrast and toning of the final grayscale image by shifting the hue in the image.
  • Channel Mixing: All images are composed of three basic colors red, blue and green. When you are editing these images in the RGB mode you have access to these channels and the ability to manipulate them. This gives you the digital ability equivalent to using color filters for shooting black and white. A detailed step-by-step procedure is beyond the scope of this article and will be a suitable topic for a dedicated post.
  • Toning or Changing Saturation: While we are at it it is worth mentioning that conversion to black and white doesn’t have to be complete. Certain pictures may look devoid of  mood when showcased in complete black and white. A way around is to tone down the saturation to minimum while retaining a small amount of color. You can also choose to remove color completely and bring in a low tint tint of any particular color. Sepia looks great and the options are only limited by your creativity. Sometimes toning may result introducing a mood that you never expected.

As a last note its worth mentioning that advanced conversion to black and white may introduce artifacts and make the picture seem unnatural. It is thus best to learn the basics, take your time getting used to black and white conversion and only then step into risky waters. Keep the post processing to a minimum to retain the originality in the picture and before starting, always reiterate the final effect you want to achieve.

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