Black & White: RAW, TIFF & JPEG

There are more ways to convert a color file into a monochrome photograph than “are dreamt about in your philosophy, Horatio.”

In my Geared Up column in the October ’17 of Shutterbug (on newsstands September 10,) I’ll be doing a comprehensive (as possible) look at all of the different ways to convert a color file into monochrome but here are a few early tips to get you in the mood:

ACR.BWI am a big believer that there are lots of photo opportunities right in your own backyard. This shot was made less than two miles from my previous home late one Sunday and was converted into black and white using Adobe Camera RAW software that’s built into Photoshop and the inexpensive Photoshop Elements.

Digital cameras let you capture images in different formats. The most common format is JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) and some cameras let you to capture images in the TIFF (Tagged Image File) format. JPEG is a standard for image compression and the most common file type used by digital cameras.

Compression enables devices to capture and store the same amount of data using fewer bits by discarding colors that may not be visible to the eye and how well it accomlishes this ultimately determines image quality. The highest image quality option is no compression that’s available with TIFF and RAW formats. All of these formats produce excellent results but when faced with difficult lighting situations, the unprocessed data of a RAW file can be helpful but the small size of the JPEG file is faster and easier to deal with in-camera and with your computer. TIFF files combine some of the advantages of both JPEG and RAW formats but the files are usually larger.

The latest version of Adobe Camera RAW contains intuitive monochrome conversion control providing a gateway for converting not only 150 different RAW formats but it also works with JPEG and TIFF files. By working with what many consider to be “digital negatives,” you can achieve the results you want with greater artistic control and flexibility while still maintaining the structural integrity of the original RAW file.

The most important factor in deciding which image file format will work best for your own personal shooting style and workflow. If you want to shoot quickly and spend less time in front of the computer, JPEG is the best choice. If you loved working in the traditional darkroom, you might consider working with RAW because they’re as close as you’re gonna find to a digital continuation of the traditional darkroom process.


My now out-of-print book Creative Digital Monochrome Effects is still available and (I think anyway) is a fun read. New copies are available from Amazon, as I wrote this, for less than two bucks—the best deal you’ll find anywhere.

Author: Joe Farace

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