There are probably as many ways to convert colour digital images into black and white as there are photo editing software programs. I normally use Photoshop and the adjustment layers method but have been aware for some time of the possibilities of using Lightzone. So I recently downloaded a trial version of Lightzone 3.8 for Windows (I want to buy it for Mac, but my Mac OS version does not support it) and started playing.
For those of you who haven’t encountered Lightzone one of its most powerful tools is ZoneMapper, which allows the user almost unlimited control over the tone in a shot. Highlights, mid-tones and shadows can all be manipulated, simply by raising or lowering the selected tones.
This coupled with direct colour to black and white conversion tools makes the conversion extremely simple, and very quick. The photograph of the sheep at the start of this piece was shot early on morning in quite heavy fog on my Nokia N95 mobile phone. The auto exposure was alright, but the image was very flat – no contrast at all but I thought it would respond to converting.
In Lightzone I opened the black and white tool and set it to Normal. Then set the ToneMapper sliders by eye; opening up the shadows so that there was detail in the tree trunks; increasing the contrast in the mid-tones to make the sheep more prominent and finally bringing a little more tone into the background. to enhance the mist. The whole process took a lot less time than I needed to write this paragraph.
When the subject is more complicated than this a mask can be created. But I find that using the tools (effectively each tool is a layer and all editing is non-destructive) is often enough to get the effect I want.