I spent the better part of today making B&W conversions of some Highway 89 project photos. Usually I start by inspecting each color channel in my image for clues on how a particular image will convert. This preview works much better if you unclick the preference to display the channels in color (in CS2 for Mac that’s in the Display and Cursors preference panel.) Then I use a channel mixer adjustment layer in Photoshop, starting with settings around 60% red, 30% green, 10% blue and checking the monochrome box. Sometimes my preview of the channels will suggest different starting numbers, even 100% from one channel only. I try to make the percentages add up to around 100%, but I’m not dogmatically exact on that nuance.
Once in a while, an image that looks great in color just won’t translate directly into a look I want. Then I will start all over with the original raw file. I’ll change the color temperature sliders, open it as a new file, and apply the channel mixer adjustment layer to that. Less desirable, because now I’ve got to reinspect for dust, copy local adjustments from the color to the B&W file, but sometimes, that’s what has to be done.
Now as self-proclaimed queen of Photoshop, I could probably list a dozen ways to get from color to B&W, but we humans tend to repeat behaviors if they generate results without too much pain. Possibly because I was bored with correlating the sliders in the channel mixer palette to the results in the histogram palette, possibly because my machine was bogging down with a huge file I needed open at the same time, I reached into toolkit for something different. In the Adobe Camera Raw dialog, I dragged the saturation slider to zero, and then played with the color temperature sliders until I liked the results. The technique relies on the same principle of blending color channels, just applied in different interface-one with the histogram front and center. I liked that.
If I had been really efficient, I would have recorded an action in Photoshop to apply a channel mixer layer preloaded with the 60/30/10 percentages along with a color balance layer I used for toning, bundled tidily into a layer group with a pithy title like “B&W”, but I couldn’t be bothered. Instead, I opened a blank 10×10 pixel file, and dragged into it the B&W adjustment group from a conversion I’d done earlier in the week. That’s only a 300 byte image. Could have made it a 1×1 pixel, 3 byte image, but I wanted a target on the screen that I could see. So long as you aren’t using masks, any sized image can work as a temporary parking place for an adjustment layer.
It’s a little early for Santa Claus, but since Rich’s cute post has crossed that pre-Thanksgiving barrier to Christmas-themed posts, I thought I’d give you this one. Besides, my Santa’s in a 4th of July parade. He’s apparently a year-round guy, that Mr. Claus. Riding a pretty mean cherry red trike, too.