I'm on an eternal quest to get a perfect black and white image

By perfect, I mean that I’m looking for some damn-foolproof way of getting a decent monochrome shot with a wide range of greyscale. I want something that gives a film-like depth to the image rather than something that just looks flat and lifeless.

In Photoshop, there’s a wide range of techniques for converting an image to black and white. Image->Mode->Grayscale just doesn’t cut it. Most shots end up looking completely flat. It’s a no-go-solution.

My recent favourite technique was to use the Channel Mixer. Go Image->Adjustments->Channel Mixer and set the Red/Green/Blue to 30/60/10 and tick the monochrome box. On my Canon, this has the happy side effect of also reducing the red channel noise too, which results in a less grainy shot. If your camera produces more Green noise, use 60/30/10 instead. Suck it and see.

A podcast from Photoshop TV has revealed a new technique though, and I love the effect. It produces a huge range of gray tones which make the photo really pop out of the screen. I’m going to be using this method extensively from hereon. Here’s how it’s done.

In Photoshop:

  1. Image->Mode->Lab Color
  2. Open up your Channels tab (usually next to Levels)
  3. Choose the Lightness channel only
  4. Select All (CTRL-A) then copy (CTRL-C)
  5. Edit->Convert to Profile
  6. Select Adobe 1998. The image will revert to a colour RGB
  7. In Channels, select the Red Channel and paste (CTRL-V)
  8. Repeat for Green and Blue, pasting the detail from the Lightness Channel into each
  9. Finally, select RGB from the Channel palette to show all the channels.

Voila!

It takes a lot longer to explain that it takes to do. Honestly, try it.

Here’s an example before-and-after shot. Click to view large and marvel at all those lovely shades of grey.

Just a bench or two

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