Since my 7th grade science teacher took the time to show me how to develop film and make prints, almost everything I made was on black and white film. As I started shooting digital about ten years ago I wanted to do black and white digitally but was disappointed in the results I was getting. It took a couple of years of experimenting with different methods and various printers but I slowly created a digital black and white process that is simple, repeatable and has great results. Here are the nine steps that make up my basic digital black and white workflow.
1. Great digital black and white starts before you even press the shutter. Not every shot is going to look good in black and white. If your goal is black and white you need to think about that from the beginning.
One of the hardest things to do is to be able to look past the color in the image and look at the luminance or brightness. Items with very different colors but similar luminance values will blend together into similar shades of gray when you convert to black and white. Different shades of the same color will often convert to distinct shades of gray.
Color can cover flaws in a photograph, people are ‘hit’ with strong colors and often miss small things like an area that is a bit soft in focus or a composition that is a little off. When we take the color away all of those little details become much more important. In black and white good basic photographic skills such as focus, composition and lighting become critical.