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Thread: Why Convert Color to B&W?

  1. #1

    Why Convert Color to B&W?

    Hello! Just curious. In the recent issue of Lenswork, a photographer stated that he took his photos in color, scanned them, and then converted them to B&W for the final output.
    I've thought that the DR of color compared to B&W films was much smaller. What advantages does the color to B&W approach give to a photographer? Best regards.

    Michael A. Heald

  2. #2

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    Re: Why Convert Color to B&W?

    If you shoot in B&W, you are limited to the spectral response of the film, corrected by any filter you might use when you shoot the picture. In Photoshop and similar tools, you have more flexibility - you can adjust the brightness of different colors.

    Do a web search for Photoshop tutorials on "Convert to B&W". In Photoshop CS3, the conversion tool is especially good. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, it's best for you to look at some of the examples that are already out there. It's enough to make you seriously consider shooting with color film all the time.

    Here is a link to a short video that shows it in action.

  3. #3
    bob carnie's Avatar
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    Re: Why Convert Color to B&W?

    Micheal
    I do a lot of converting to black & white from colour files from capture as well as from scans of colour originals. I am using the Harmon Fibre base paper .
    In Cs3 the convert to black and white is a very powerful tool that is amazing to work with. As suggested you can get a tutorial on this feature and see its beauty.
    With landscape scenes the ability to put your curser on colour tonalitys and move the tones , darker or lighter , you can separate the colour pallete of the scene in black and white.
    In this application you can also do a very quick selection of options of different coloured filters from deep blue red, infared, to yellow green red, as well you can customize as well.*haven't figured that one yet*
    I now photograph more of my personal work in colour negative as this tool allows me to convert post exposure.*I think this method of working flys in the face of the adage of previsulization* but it does open up the ability to photograph in colour , then in post processing look at your imagery in colour or quickly convert your files to black and white to see the effect of no colour.
    I still work in black and white film for specific projects , but I must admit for general practice, fun, holiday photography I shoot only colour and then convert to B&W in PS 3.

  4. #4

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    Re: Why Convert Color to B&W?

    The ultimate range of color (and digital) is less than B&W film but still... there is more tonality in a color neg than you could ever hope to exploit... so maybe I'll lose a stop but I get more control... and by the time it's ink on paper, I'll take a slightly darker shadow in the trade off.

    My problem is color neg is more $ than B&W...

  5. #5

    Re: Why Convert Color to B&W?

    How does expansion and contraction come into play with color? This is one of the tools that is talked about a lot with B&W negatives. Best regards.

    Mike

  6. #6

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    Re: Why Convert Color to B&W?

    Then there are those of us who have chosen to eschew the wet darkroom entirely. My local pro lab doesn't do B&W sheet films in house, but sends them out and tacks on a nice surcharge, so it's more economical to shoot transparencies and convert. I also get the choice of color or B&W from a single exposure.

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    Re: Why Convert Color to B&W?

    If you're talking about the images from the Disney Concert Hall, go to his website http://rodericklyonsphotography.com/mbr_purchase.php
    "All images (except Disney Concert Hall) were shot on film..."

  8. #8
    Large format foamer! SamReeves's Avatar
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    Re: Why Convert Color to B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Lee View Post
    If you shoot in B&W, you are limited to the spectral response of the film, corrected by any filter you might use when you shoot the picture. In Photoshop and similar tools, you have more flexibility - you can adjust the brightness of different colors.

    Do a web search for Photoshop tutorials on "Convert to B&W". In Photoshop CS3, the conversion tool is especially good. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, it's best for you to look at some of the examples that are already out there. It's enough to make you seriously consider shooting with color film all the time.

    Here is a link to a short video that shows it in action.
    I agree. I've been guilty of using channel mixer on more than one occasion. A very powerful tool that's worth looking into.

  9. #9

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    Re: Why Convert Color to B&W?

    Most people don't push or pull color neg, I don't think it is quite as easy to use different processing times without introducing cross-curves of unexpected, inappropriate color.

    E-6 chromes can be pushed or pulled, with slight changes of contrast and grain.

    But B&W film is the most accomodating to push/pull (expansion/contraction).

    IMO I don't bother, I process it all the same, consistently and let God sort out the good negatives... like I said, a little extra dynamic range is nice but if you didn't have it, you probably wouldn't notice it's missing....

  10. #10
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
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    Re: Why Convert Color to B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Heald View Post
    What advantages does the color to B&W approach give to a photographer?
    I'll be the hard-ass.

    The advantage is it doesn't require the discipline necessary to do excellent B&W work. Specifically, you don't have to work as hard at visualizing the image you want because you are going to "fix it in post." Therefore you don't have to manipulate image capture to match your vision -- you can apply a "filter" later in post. This in turn encourages the it-doesn't-work-in-color-maybe-it'll-work-in-B&W attitude. Excellent B&W is seldom an afterthought!

    I believe in the garbage-in-garbage-out (GIGO) principle. I want my negatives to be as close a match to my vision as I can get, with the correct colors, correct tonal values, etc. Color or B&W. I want to do as little work in post as possible. It's part of mastering the craft for me. And part of that is knowing at exposure time whether or not the final image is going to be color or B&W.

    Shooting in color and then converting to B&W may make it easier to make a good B&W print, but it makes it more difficult to make an excellent B&W print. There's more to excellent B&W than what you can do in post.

    I'm sure there are exceptions - there are exceptions to every rule. And the digital capture people don't have a lot of choice due to the dearth of B&W digital capture options. But that to me is an excellent reason to continue to use film, rather than looking for work arounds.

    But I like life out of the mainstream. Hell, I threw away my cell phone four or five years ago. So decide what you want to do and have at it. "There are many paths to the waterfall." I'm not terribly interesting in how you got there; I'm really only interested in your results - excellent prints speak for themselves.

    Bruce Watson

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