Black & White photography has suffered big decline once colour films became more affordable. Another hit was caused by digital photography where suddenly it didn't make any difference if you were shooting in colour or changed the settings into b&w. But black & white photography is gaining its popularity now. It is being rediscovered by new generation of photographers. We are missing one thing in b&w photography which makes all the difference - colour. Colour is a big distraction from the subject and also the mood of the photo. It flattens the photo, light & contrast doesn't work as well as it does in black & white. Also textures are more crisp and sharp with black & white. We have a lot of requests for converting wedding photos and also portraits into black and white. Conversion can also save a good photo if colours simply do not work together i.e. clothes clash or simply distract the viewer. After producing many black & white canvas prints we have gained experience on best conversion methods. After all - the timeless look of the black & white canvas prints is also supported by the use of canvas varnish which makes them really resistant to fading.
Now in a simple words we just want to desaturate the photo - there is at least a few ways of doing it. Up to Adobe Photoshop CS2 there was just one option designed specifically to do it - using Image-Mode-Grayscale. This was basically stripping the colour information completely(converting RGB channels to Grayscale), without leaving us any influence how it was done. There were other ways to do it a lot better than this. Using Image-Adjustment-Desaturate. This method is actually leaving the image in RGB mode allowing further adjustments of the channels. Another way is also converting the image to LAB mode and using just L (Lightness) channel. Channel mixer was commonly used and probably still is by many photographers.
Whichever method was chosen it will almost always be followed by more subtle channel adjustments.
From CS3 there has been new tool added - it lays under Image-Adjustments-Black& White which is by far more superior than its predecessor. Going back to black & white photography - sometimes to achieve desired results photographers used to use colour filters to emphasize certain tones of the subject. This is probably the idea behind this new Photoshop CS3 tool. Here we have a control over the conversion process based on the colour information. We can easily lighten or darken areas of the final black & white version of the image just by increasing or decreasing percentage values.
Another great tool during conversion is histogram. It is a good habit to keep an eye on the histogram window while making changes. Make sure that there are no 'spikes' at either side of the histograms - if there is one on the left side it usually means that the photo is too dark. Spike on the right means that there are completely white areas - usually meaning that some of the image definition will be lost.
As with any other alterations to our images it is best to work on adjustments layers rather than directly on the original photo.
Once we are happy with the new black & white version of the photo please send it to us for printing on canvas. We can also do the conversion if that is what you prefer. We can send proofs via email or even printed sample if necessary.
If you are in a position it is always best to shoot in raw format. We also RGB images to 16 bit mode first. This will allow to keep more details in the final black & white file since we potentially have more shades of black available.
Important aspect of creating black & white canvas prints is printing. We are using epson ultrachrome inks printers which are utilizing 3 different black inks (photo black, light black and light light black). These truly produce magnificent results. Together with our colour calibrated workflow we create pure black & white canvas prints, without any colour cast. Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.