Favorites: Black and White Conversion Techniques

In Article, Black and White Photography, Photographer on March 5, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Harold Davis “HDR image

We recently ran a piece on Harold Davis’s LAB Color conversion workflow and now we have an expanded set of workflows from him to share with you courtesy of

It’s common to refer to “black and white” photography. People certainly know what you mean by “black and white,” but in the digital era the term is neither accurate nor a good description. Digital black and white photos are usually archived as standard RGB color files, so in this sense these files are not really black and white at all. (On a few occasions, it does make sense to convert a “black and white” RGB or CMYK image to grayscale for printing purposes.)

In addition, if you tint or tone your black and white images—a common practice to enrich their appeal—then the color values strictly speaking do not go from white to black. In the chemical darkroom, toned prints were made from black and white negatives—but digital files that are toned, even if they are essentially monochromatic, are naturally color files. Otherwise, how could you reproduce the desired toning effect?

Therefore, “monochrome” is probably a better term than “black and white” to reference an image that displays values in a single color hue going from light to dark—but either term doesn’t fully describe what is happening when a color image file is manipulated so that it mostly appears black and white.

For the rest of the story: Harold Davis Conversion Technique

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