Black-and-white photography: 3 tips to master mono conversions

Color imagery may be the dominating medium for images in this modern age, but with many rediscovering their love for quality black-and-white images, today’s photographers are evaluating how to best process these images. Unlike back in the day — when an image began its life in black and white — these days most photos start out with their color intact and are then converted to black and white (though there are some niche cameras that only shoot in black and white).

This means that photographers and anyone interested in producing black-and-white images must understand how to process them from their original color state to black and white. While some may think this is as easy a pressing a button, the fact is that the best results come from fine tuning the process in a way that a one-click button can’t.

Photographer Jeff Rojas is a fashion and portrait photographer based in New York City. On YouTube, Rojas often uploads educational videos and tips for photographers or anyone looking to improve their photography skills. He recently tackled this issue of black-and-white images and some things that need to be considered before you start the conversion process to ensure that you get the best and desired result.

Follow these three simple steps to master the technique:

Know your contrast ratio

The first aspect that Rojas mentions is the monitor that you are using to process the image. Some monitors, like the Macbook Pro he mentions in his video, are higher contrast displays than the one you picked up for $150 at Best Buy last week. Knowing this, and compensating for it, can ensure that your image looks good across a wide range of monitors, rather than just the one you are using.

Consider the color

Study the color cast of the room that you are in for optimal black and white conversions. This is often one of the most overlooked aspects of processing an image, whether color or black and white. Vibrant colors in the room you are in reflect off the screen and cause your brain to compensate for them, which as Rojas mentions, can lead to you pushing something too far (or not far enough) without even realizing it.

Think about the medium

Finally, and probably most importantly, Rojas says to take the medium you are creating the image for into account. For example, if you are processing an image that will be going to print, you need to process it and convert it differently from an image that you intend for digital/online use only.

Think about these the next time you attempt to convert one of your images to black and white, it just may help you get better results than you have in the past.

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