From Colors to Shades of Gray

This is a discussion on From Colors to Shades of Gray within the Photo Editing & Image Management forums, part of the PHOTO FORUM category; CONVERTING TO BLACK & WHITE: It's a bit of a catch 22 when you're dealing with BW digital vs BW film. If you shoot in ...


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  1. #1
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    CONVERTING TO BLACK & WHITE:


    It's a bit of a catch 22 when you're dealing with BW digital vs BW film. If you shoot in film, you have film quality, which is tough to beat unless you're spending enough money to make up for it. However, if you DO shoot in digital, if you're simply converting to grayscale to get your BW, then you're selling yourself short.

    If you have photoshop and you're not familiar with this technique, pay attention:
    (there's a couple of ways to do this very thing, so I'll go over both)

    The first way to do it, open your image, then go to IMAGE, then ADJUSTMENTS, then CHANNEL MIXER.
    Once the interface opens, be sure to click the box at the bottom for MONOCHROME, this will convert the channel mixer to "black & white" mode.

    The SECOND way to do it (and I prefer to do it this way) is to go to LAYER, then NEW ADJUSTMENT LAYER, then CHANNEL MIXER. It achieves the same thing, only it will actually create a new layer on top of the original image which you make the adjustments to (therefore making no change in the original image if you were to save it as a .psd image).

    As you'll be able to see, you'll have the option to adjust the red, green, and blue channels in your image, creating the effect as if you'd used a colored filter when you shot it. This is the reality with digital that we only WISH we had when shooting with film. We have the ability to shoot with whatever colored filter we want when shooting film, but we don't have the adjustment range we have when playing with these settings on the computer. Here's an example:

    FULL COLOR (ctrl+~)


    RED CHANNEL (ctrl+1 or R=100, G=0, B=0 in the channel mixer)


    GREEN CHANNEL (ctrl+2 or R=0, G=100, B=0 in the channel mixer)


    BLUE CHANNEL (ctrl+3 or R=0, G=0, B=100 in the channel mixer)


    Now, keep in mind that these images were acquired when typing in the combination of keys shown above each, or by using those specific coordinates in the channel mixer. When you play with the channel mixer, you have the opportunity to adjust the level of each channel up to +/-200, therefore giving you almost unlimited range.

    This is where the catch 22 comes in.

    Keep in mind that your total clarity is made up of all three channels, so no matter whether it's in color or monochrome, when you lower the levels of these channels, you start to lose that clarity, especially if you boost the blue, as that channel carries the most digital "noise" with it. That's where film takes the cake.

    Now, having said all this, it's worth mentioning a couple of things:

    First, the newer models of digital cameras (i.e. the Canon Digital Rebel XT/350D, XTi/400D) have the ability to shoot in grayscale in the camera with the use of all three color sensors, therefore giving you the ability of shooting with colored filters on a digital camera and still be able to keep your clarity. And assuming you build up a good collection of colored filters, you'll be able to cover quite a range of filtered black and white digital photography.

    Secondly, it's also worth mentioning that advancements in the noise handling of each the red, blue, and green channels have all been greatly improved over where they were even just 2-4 years ago, so it's not as much of a problem with the newer models as it is with some of the older ones, namely the original Digital Rebel, which had a huge problem with lots and lots of noise in its blue channel. Both the XT/350D and the XTi/400D have wonderful clarity in their blue channels.
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  • #2
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    wow thanks so much for the detailed instructions, i kind of wish I wasn't going away this weekend cuz i really wanna go home and just sit infront of my laptop and play around with a bunch of photo's ive been trying to put into B&W.

    Once again thanks so much for the effort, you really know your way around photoshop! (which version do you have btw?)
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  • #3
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    wow thanks so much for the detailed instructions, i kind of wish I wasn't going away this weekend cuz i really wanna go home and just sit infront of my laptop and play around with a bunch of photo's ive been trying to put into B&W.

    Once again thanks so much for the effort, you really know your way around photoshop! (which version do you have btw?)

    Hey no problem. I have CS2 now, but I started with 3.0 and 4.0 about 11 years ago. Had some practice since then. ;-)
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    wow thanks so much for the detailed instructions, i kind of wish I wasn't going away this weekend cuz i really wanna go home and just sit infront of my laptop and play around with a bunch of photo's ive been trying to put into B&W.

    Once again thanks so much for the effort, you really know your way around photoshop! (which version do you have btw?)

    Hey no problem. I have CS2 now, but I started with 3.0 and 4.0 about 11 years ago. Had some practice since then. ;-)
    [/quote]

    Yah i have 3.0 and love it, I got CS2 but i find it sooo hard to figure out because im so used to 3.0 and didn't use any versions in between so its a huge jump. So I tend to just stick with 3.0 because it has all the stuff I would use, CS2 just confuses the crap out of me
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  • #5
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    Yah i have 3.0 and love it, I got CS2 but i find it sooo hard to figure out because im so used to 3.0 and didn't use any versions in between so its a huge jump. So I tend to just stick with 3.0 because it has all the stuff I would use, CS2 just confuses the crap out of me
    Wow, do you have a Mac or Windows? If Windows, what version?
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  • #6
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    Yah i have 3.0 and love it, I got CS2 but i find it sooo hard to figure out because im so used to 3.0 and didn't use any versions in between so its a huge jump. So I tend to just stick with 3.0 because it has all the stuff I would use, CS2 just confuses the crap out of me
    Wow, do you have a Mac or Windows? If Windows, what version?
    [/quote]

    I have windows..umm...XP home I think.
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  • #7
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    I have windows..umm...XP home I think.
    I'm surprised it works. Usually they make enough changes between versions of both software and operating systems to render them incompatible with each other. For example, I couldn't get anything past 7.0 to work on WinME, had to upgrade to XP. Then again, I dunno why I stuck with WinME as long as I did in the first place.
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  • #8
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    THANK YOU THANK YOU!

    You're very good at tutorials.

    I did recently learned how to do the B&W conversion using the channels/monochrome but I always find it very hard to know what to set the levels at. I was hoping you were going to say that this was your technique.

    My question is - do you find there is a pattern to how you decide your levels for red, blue and green? Do you find yourself always doing the same percentages for specific channels or do you manually move then differently everytime to what pleases the eye?

    I'd like your thoughts on determining percentages if you don't mind!

    Thanks again!!!!
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  • #9
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    hey so im using photoshop 3.0 and the Channel Mixer isn't under either the Image, or new adjustment layer menus...should I just use CS2?
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  • #10
    Jen
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    hey so im using photoshop 3.0 and the Channel Mixer isn't under either the Image, or new adjustment layer menus...should I just use CS2?
    Alex, if you have CS2 I say you shoudl really go for it. Seriously.. It has so many options that can't compare to 3.0. I know it's very confusing when you haven't ever used it for but I just try to learn as much as I can each day. I'm not expert at it myelf but what I try to do is "google" everything I want to do in photoshop and you find a ton of tutorials for anything you can ever need....

    That's IMO!

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