Monday, October 25, 2010

Black and white conversion

I swear by a black & white conversion that I first saw in the magazine Photography Monthly back in May this year and, after reading an article in Light Stalking about such processes, thought I'd post it up on here.

Credit for this process goes to photographer Greg Gorman. It is a lengthy process but I have it set it up as an action in Photoshop. One push of a button (F2 in my case) and the PS goes through all the steps in layers, leaving me in full control over contrast, levels toning etc.

Seeing as it was already publicised, I'm sure I can divulge the details seeing as the creator is credited above... so click 'read more' for the details.

1 Open a colour image in Photoshop.

2 Under your Actions palette, pop out Menu, select New Action.

3 Name the action ‘Black and white conversion’.

4 Assign a function key such as F1 to your action.

5 Select ‘Record’.

6 Under the Image menu, select Mode>Lab colour.

7 Click (highlight) the lightness channel.

8 Under the Image menu, select Mode>Greyscale (discard colour information).

9 Command click on the grey channel (to load the selection).

10 Under the Select menu, choose Image>Inverse to select the shadows.

11 Under the Image menu, choose Mode>RGB colour.

12 In the Adjustment Layers palette, choose solid colour.

13 Select a colour from the colour picker or from the Swatches palette (which I prefer because you can save a custom colour).

14 Your choice of colour should be based on the tonal range you wish to see in your final toned black and white.

15 Go to your Layers palette and change your blending mode to Multiply.

16 Because your colour fill is on a layer, you may adjust the opacity to dial back the colour that you desire.

17 In addition, you may add a curves or levels adjustment to achieve the desired contrast.

18 Should you wish to change the colour of your black and white ‘duotone’, simply double click the colour fill and reselect the colour.

19 Create a new layer.

20 While holding the Option button, go to the pop-out menu and select Merge Visible.

21 Change the blending mode to overlay.

22 Reduce the opacity to 20%.

23 Choose filter-other. Then select-high pass. Set radius at 50 pixels.

24 Double click the new layer to bring up Layer Properties.

25 Bring the black point arrow in to 70. Option click the black point arrow to split them, pulling one half of the arrow back to 50.

26 Bring the white point arrow in to 185. Then Option click the white point arrow to split them, pulling one half of the arrow back to 205. Click OK.

27 If necessary, the opacity may be varied to reach your desired adjustment.

28 Under the File menu, select Save As and choose your file and location (for example, Desktop>New Folder> Black and White Conversions).

29 If you choose not to flatten your file at this time, you may be able to change the tonal and contrast adjustments to different settings in the future, if desired.

30 Close your file.

31 Stop your action in your Actions palette.

32 This completes creating your action and assigning a function key. All that is necessary after opening a colour image in Photoshop is to press your function key. All your fine-tuning adjustments may now be performed on the individual layers as desired.


  1. Up until now I have been unimpressed with digital black and white and with the various options to convert colour to bnw. After making this an Action on Photoshop (needed to switch the Command and Option keys for Ctrl and Alt) I converted all my favourite col pics to bnw with a little tweaking. Thank you Greg and Mark for respectively creating and sharing this technique with us

  2. Hello Mr Anonymous... I'm really pleased to hear that you liked the results of the B&W action above. The credit goes to Greg Gorman... I was just lucky enough to stumble upon it and then I just shared it.