More than just shades of grey
Black and white can be applied in a wide range of styles, so you can use one that best suits your image
Timeless, elegant and truthful are just three words that are commonly used to describe black-and-white photography. These are subjective attributes, of course, but they certainly provide an insight into the way photographers feel about monochrome. So popular were the results of using black-and-white film that it remained popular alongside colour film.
These days you can easily apply a black-and-white effect to a colour image during post-processing. Of course, some images will work better in mono than others, but with many different approaches to the style, you may just need to try a new technique to get the best from your images.
Here are four techniques that approach the idea of black-and-white in different ways, for what can only be described as a unique end result for each. From subtle desaturation to a pseudo-infrared look, these creative approaches will help to keep all of your mono images looking fresh.
1 50% desaturation
A great way to make your images look more moody and mysterious is to reduce the saturation, using a technique that creates deep blacks and bright whites. Simply create two Black & White Adjustment Layers, then set the Blending mode of one to Multiply, and the other to Screen. Group the layers by selecting both and holding down Ctrl/Cmd+G, then reduce the Opacity of the group to 50%.
2 Standard blackand‑white
A great method for a quick and great-looking mono conversion is to apply a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer. The result is bright and contrasty without the need for additional adjustments. Click the Create Adjustment Layer icon in the Layers panel and choose Gradient Map. When the dialog box opens, click on the gradient, select the black-to‑white option, and click OK to apply.
3 Infrared look
If you have an image with an abundance of green, a fake infrared look can be a highly effective approach. Click the Create Adjustment Layer icon in the Layers panel and choose Black & White. When the dialog box opens, move the Greens and Yellows sliders to the right to lighten. Take care with the Yellows: this channel can be brightened too much, and the result will be blown detail in grass and foliage.
4 Split-tone colour
Split-tone is a classic effect that can be applied to a mono shot. This is where two colours are applied: one for the shadows and one for the highlights. Create a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer and click on the gradient. Select a dark colour for the shadows on the left of the gradient and a lighter colour for the highlights on the right. Use Opacity to control the overall effect.
James Abbott James is a professional photographer. He’s an advanced Photoshop user and has created hundreds of tutorials.