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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Gadget Bag: Convert To B&W

The era of complex maneuvers with the channel mixer has given way to a bevy of software solutions that give you control and make it easy to transform color to evocative, dramatic black-and-white images

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This Article Features Photo Zoom

Nik Software Silver Efex Pro 2; onOne Software PhotoTools 2.6

To create the best bold black-and-white images, you used to have to know the ins and outs of Photoshop's channel mixer. It could be daunting, especially if you weren't that fluent with Photoshop to begin with. Today, however, a number of powerful options are available that make the process dead-easy, and best of all, many of these options are oriented more toward photographers than toward graphic designers.

In this brief roundup, our goal is to point out the available options. We don't have the space to provide complete guided tours of each of these software solutions. You can learn more online, and a quick check of YouTube will provide a number of free tutorials that delve into the nitty-gritty of these applications.

ArcSoft PhotoStudio 6
Beyond quick conversion, all of the programs here also give you more extensive controls when you drill down into them. Some offer more options in this area than others, but each lets you craft your images beyond a single "convert to monochrome" click. Whichever software you ultimately use to convert and fine-tune your photographs, spend time experimenting with the fine controls. You'll be amazed at the tonal information in your photographs and how you can coax that out.

Nik Software Silver Efex Pro 2
Like all of Nik Software's products, Silver Efex Pro 2 is photographic in its layout and functionality. By that we mean the software seems like it was created by photographers, not computer programmers. You'll feel at home working within the interface. Silver Efex Pro offers a number of presets that create various black-and-white looks. You can simply pick one and apply, or you can fine-tune the various effects using Nik Software's U Point system. Drop a U Point on the image, and you can increase or decrease the amount of adjustment through slider controls. The process is intuitive, fast and easy.

Adobe Lightroom 4
onOne Software PhotoTools 2.6
onOne Software makes some of the most useful tools for photographers, and their PhotoTools package lets you apply a number of black-and-white presets (among
others) to an image. The collection of black-and-white presets is extensive. PhotoTools 2.6 lets you take detailed control over an image, and new in v2.6 is a lighting effects tool that works well for black-and-white photos.

Alien Skin Exposure 4
Alien Skin Exposure 4
The Exposure software versions have long been a popular solution for photographers looking to get specific looks from their black-and-white conversions. Exposure 4 lets you choose from a variety of specific film emulsions so you can convert and mimic your favorite films. For photographers who never used film, this capability still offers a lot of creativity and gives you a chance to experiment with grain, contrast and even subtle black-and-white tonalities. The software works as a plug-in for Photoshop or Lightroom, as well as a standalone application.

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