Photoshop: The Importance of Black & White Conversions

I worked on a tiny little ad today that reminded me of a larger issue: The importance of converting color images to black & white without losing the feel of the original image.

Here’s an example using a photo of the Veranda Fireside Lounge at Rancho Bernardo Inn (Robert Miller, photographer). It clearly was lit very carefully to highlight specific elements and give the scene a feeling of warmth and depth.

The original, color image with its soft, glowing feel.

The simplest way to convert the image to black and white is to just desaturate it and convert it to grayscale. At a glance this works fine, but in fact the image has lost a great deal of what made it so striking in color.

The image after the default grayscale conversion. It looks okay, but the warmth and glow have been lost.

Fortunately, Photoshop makes it almost as easy to create a really good black and white conversion that retains the feeling of the original image.

When converted with Photoshop’s Black & White Adjustment layer I was able to select a filter (green, in this case) that retained the glow found in the original color image.
Compared to the default grayscale image above, for instance, notice the glow on the chairs in the foreground, the pillars at the right edge, and the fireplace in the background (further improvements should be made, but this shows just the basic difference).

Someone may think the different is insignificant, but the final image definitely does a much better job of getting across the feeling of the venue. Even if a viewer can’t point specifically to what’s different, they are sure to respond to it.

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