Magical Monochrome Manipulations

Proving that you can, in fact, change your tune, Paul Simon altered the lyrics of his 1973 hit song Kodachrome from the original “…everything looks worse in black and white.” When he performed the song at a concert in Central Park on August 15, 1991 everything looked “better.” I happen to agree with him.

There are lots of ways to create monochrome digital images but the easiest way to create a black and white digital image is in the camera at the time of capture. Many digital SLRs have built-in monochrome modes and some even have modes that enhance gray tones while making the rest of the colors look less vibrant producing an old-fashioned even hand-colored look. Worried about losing that color original? Tip: Shoot in RAW+JPEG mode and you’ll simultaneously capture two files: A color RAW file and a monochrome JPEG. If you originally captured a color image file, there is lots of software available to convert that image if you change your mind later one. The beautiful old Buick shown in the illustration was customized for the Shah of Iran and now resides in a private collection. It was originally photographed in color using a Canon EOS 30D but was later converted using…

Whenever I write anything about black & white image conversion software, I invariably get e-mails asking, “why didn’t you talk about Power Retouche’s Black & White Studio,” so I’m kicking off this week’s posts by mentioning a great product that I first ran into in 2006. Over the years, Black & White Studio has continued to improve and at € 30 (about $ 42.50 today) it remains a bargain for both Mac OS and Windows users. It will convert color images to black and white photography using the light sensitivity of specific films, such as Tri-X for example, or you can set your own sensitivity curves. This Photoshop-compatible plug-in also lets you apply the equivalent to on-camera color filters (yellow, orange, etc.) to an image and in its Print mode lets you employ the equivalent of Multigrade paper filters—remember them?— with effects ranging from 00 to 5. In Zone mode you can apply highlight and shadow controls as well as make adjustments in three selectable zones. Download a demo version and try it with your own photographs.

Joe is author Creative Digital Monochrome Special Effects published by Lark Books and available at book and camera stores as well as

Author: Joe Farace

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