'Creative Workflow'
Which images should you convert to black and white?
Posted by Dave in Creative Workflow on Aug 14, 2012 comments and reactions

I've spent a lot of time over the last few months concentrating on black and white photography, mostly because I was developing and recording my new course for Udemy: The Art of Black and White Photography, partly because I'll be running a one-day black and white photography and postproduction workshop during the GPP Fotoweekend training event in Dubai in November, but also because it's a form of photography I find enduringly fascinating.

For my Udemy course I cover a whole range of topics: how to use Photoshop to best convert an image to black and white, what makes some images easier to convert than others, how to make a range of selective adjustments using curves and masks, and so on. And I suspect it will be much the same for my GPP workshop.

The question I don't cover in much detail is the one I've used for the title of this post: which images should you convert to black and white? In other words, I don't want to talk about how to convert an image to black and white, I want to focus on why you should consider doing so.

So, why is it that some images look great in colour, but bland and uninteresting in black and white, while others are considerably more striking?

It's that question I want to focus on here.

Critique Slot Screencast #7

If you're a subscriber to our photography and post-production tutorials you'll be familiar with our Critique Slot Screencasts. These are critiques of our subscribers' images, normally about an hour long, and split into two sections. In the first part I work through and critique the edit supplied by one of our subscribers – explaining the changes that were made, offering alternative solutions, and so on – while in the second I re-edit the image from the original RAW file.

For this image, supplied by Doug Stroud, the processing centred around Doug's creative aims. Specifically, whether it was possible to create an increased tension between the foreground and background: the happy/innocent children at play, offset against a moody and ominous background.

If you'd be interested in taking a look at a low-res version (730px wide rather than 1280px), and finding out how I would process this image, read on …