Converting an Image to Black and White

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Duration: 1:45

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When is a color image not a color image? When you turn it to black and white. This session will illustrate how sometimes a winter shot will already be so close to monochromatic that you can remove the color and end up with a richer, more striking image.

Sometimes your perfect winter photo could be even better without color because it’s already almost black and white. In this session, photographer Layne Kennedy demonstrates this line of reasoning with one of his own winter photography shots.

The scene, which features a frosted evergreen tree nestled behind and between two larger, similar trees, features bright whites and dark darks, with the white of the snow on the ground in the trees, compared to the dark colors of the needles and the trunks of the deciduous trees in the background. There’s not a lot of sunlight to brighten the image. As Layne converts the image to black and white, the contrast grows sharper, making the photo just a bit richer. The difference is subtle, but Layne points out that converting to black and white can sometimes create a more vibrant and even more realistic image than a color photo.

Whether you should make such a conversion depends quite a bit on lighting. If the sun is out and bright, you’ll lose a lot of visual warmth and depth by converting an image to black and white. But if the sun is covered by clouds and the lighting is what photographers often call “limp light,” you may end up with a cooler image that will lend itself well to black and white.