First, this is no way a complete guide about anything. Just throwin’ that out there. I happen to have a background in black and white film photography, and it’s helped me pick up some things here and there that can easily be applied to digital.
Second, Pioneer Woman is freaking awesome and inspires me constantly. As I sat here with major photo related writer’s block and no idea what could even remotely be useful to my readers, she wrote a post giving and asking for some black and white editing advice. Wah-la! Inspiration.
Ok, some basics. Ever seen color filters out there and thought “why would I want a red tinted photo?” You probably wouldn’t. (I would, but that’s a whole other story). Those filters are mostly made for black and white photography. Filters have the ability to lighten and darken certain colors as they translate to shades of grayscale. Red filters make blue skies darker, for example. Here’s a basic run down:
Whatever color filter you have, the filter will lighten things that are the color of the filter, and darken it’s opposing color. This is why color wheels can be so handy. See above.
Your most common filters are:
(before edits are on left, after applying filters are on the right)
Yellow and Orange - slightly darkens blue tones (increases contrast of cloudy sky)
Red - really darkens blue tones, dramatic skies and dark foliage
Green - lightens foliage. This is a great go-to for nicer skin in portraits as well.
If you’re lucky enough to own a Canon DSLR, these not only shoot in black and white, but have the filters built in digitally. Read the manual on how to play with your monochrome settings.
TIP: If you shoot in RAW, the RAW file will still be in color. Only the jpg has the monochrome information, so shoot RAW+JPG.
How to translate this in black and white with photoshop? After adding a black and white adjustment layer, just fuss around with the levels.
Another fun black and white trick I picked up from a commenter named Sarah K at Pioneer Woman… Gradient layers! You can use these on top of black and white adjustment layers, or by themselves.
This allows you to pick which color will be used as “black” and which will be used as “white”. You can make warm or cool toned “black and white” photos, or go weird and do a pink version.
How to: There are a couple ways to select what colors will be used in your gradient map. First off, set your foreground and background colors to what you’d like your new “black” and “white” to be before applying the gradient map. They’ll pop up automatically when you add the adjustment layer.
Way #2. Once you’ve added the layer, double click on the gradient on the right and it will bring up an option box. Here you can choose to use some of the preset gradients, or click on the color stop for the dark and light ends, then change the color.
Okay, that’s all I have in me this morning. I’m in my black and white phase, so I will probably come up with more ideas or inspiration to share with you. For now, I hope that was helpful.
Side note: I love teaching, especially photography. If you are ever stumped you can email me at email@example.com with your questions and unless I suddenly become famous and have 1000 emails (yeah, right), I will answer you.