Guide to Creating Perfect Black and White Images

With the advent of color, black and white images have taken a back seat. However in the world of professional photography they are still much preferred. Nevertheless we still cannot totally eliminate the fact that there are a number of photographers who still prefer B/W over color. You might even ask as to why it is still preferred? Well, that is not a question that can be answered as there is no specific answer to it. After all it all started with black and white photography. Probably that’s the main reason it still holds a very special place for some of us.

Converting pictures into black and white can be the easiest thing to do. All one needs to do is to click on “Convert to Greyscale” using an image editor. But the point is – will they be good enough to draw a second look. Probably not. This workshop will basically show you the difference between using the traditional conversion method and making use of a simple plugin named B/W Styler. However the plugin isn’t free and will set you back by Rs. 2,300, but this little add-on has a lot of options to offer such as ND filters and diffusion files that would otherwise cost a bomb. In addition, the plugin can also be used with IrfanView. But before we proceed here are a few tips that you should take into account when taking pictures.

Choose your subjects –
This is vital if you plan to convert your images into B/W. They might appear quite appealing in color whereas a greyscale version of them might just turn out to be dull so it is best to keep the shot simple. For example objects or even a portrait comes out much better if they portray one solid color rather than have multiple colors. Secondly, the fewer the elements in your photographs, the better will be the overall outcome.

Light and Shadow –

Since the picture is devoid of color making use of light while also taking into account the shadow of the object will make the picture much more interesting. Moreover, try not to use flash as it eliminates the overall effect that you would normally achieve with shadows. Eliminating shadows in a black and white image will make the overall picture look rather flat.

Perspective –
Perspective plays a very important role in the world of photography. Here, the angle at which the picture is taken can either make it look very interesting or extremely boring.
Do keep in mind that the values that have been mentioned here are best used for outdoor shots. However the exact values will differ from image to image.

Once you have downloaded and installed the plugin run IrfanView. Navigate to “Image | Effects | Adobe 8BF Filters”. Now click on “Add 8BF filters” and navigate to the folder where it was installed. After you have added the filter, Select it and click “Start selected filter”. The required filters can be selected from the drop down menu placed on top.

Step 1: B/W Filters
When taking pictures in B/W most photographers normally use colored glass filters along with the lens to give the image a different effect. For example, to highlight the overall skin tones an orange filter would normally be used while a red filter would make the overall sky dark. For outdoor shots, it is best to use the Yellow filter as it makes the image look just about natural.

Contrast: This basically allows you to make fine adjustments based on the color differences in the image. However too high or too low may cause the image to artifact.

Brightness: Here again the level of brightness depends on the aspect that you want to highlight. Keep in mind that both contrast and brightness play a very important role when converting images to black and white.
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Step 2: ND Filters
The main effect of a polarizer is to eliminate reflection from various surfaces. Moreover they also help enhance the overall color of the sky. Depending on the image you can choose between three various filters – ND Filter (used to darken the image), ND Grad Filters (gradually darken one half of the image) and Polarizers (used to darken blue areas and brighten yellow areas). So if the sky is what you want to highlight then the ND Grad filter should do the trick.

Step 3: Diffusion Filters
Diffusion filters are used specifically when the need is to give the picture a very soft and dreamy effect without affecting the overall sharpness and contrast of the image.

Do note that the higher the diffuser value, your picture will be darker . So choose the required diffuser depending on the overall contrast of the image.

Step 4: Development Mode
The development mode basically represents effects that are normally applied in the darkroom when processing RAW films.

Brighten: The slider allows you to increase/decrease the overall Exposure Value from -5 to +5 though for most images you will only need to make adjustments between -1 and +1.
S-Contrast and H-Contrast: These two independent sliders basically allow you to adjust contrast in dark and bright areas. They are best used when the need is to highlight certain aspects in the picture.

Amplify: You can also call it the precision slider as it allows you to make fine adjustments to images; used along with the contrast sliders.

Step 5: Paper Grade
This basically refers to photographic paper that has a range of contrast levels. Here different levels provide effects ranging from low contrast (0) to high contrast (5). Since we couldn’t achieve the required effect with the preset values we chose to change the “Multigrade” value to -1 along with a “Paper density” of 15. What we achieved was a rather dreamy effect that best suits the overall image.

Step 6: Frame
A picture such as this is never complete without composing them in a frame. Framing basically gives your image added perspective and depth that makes them stand out in the process. Your best bet would be the Rect – Black Simple or the Rect – Black Line frame. However the choice of frame is totally up to you.

Once you are satisfied with the overall image click “OK” to apply the settings. Exit the filter menu and save the image. Do note that the steps mentioned are just for your understanding to help you get started.


Published Date: May 26, 2010 10:38 am | Updated Date: May 26, 2010 10:38 am