B&W conversion: which is which?

It was great to read so many comments and opinions about the Black & White conversion comparison. Thanks to all of you who took the time to write your preferences. And now here is the formula:

A = Luminance curve from HSL
B = Jpeg2BW
C = Desaturation from RawStudio
D = Channel mixer

The most interesting thing for me is that there is no consensus on which output is “the best”. Each version has at least 2 people picking it as their first choice…

Just for fun I assigned 4 points to the preferred, 3 to second, etc for each vote and made the totals. At the time of writing, the result are: D (33) then B (28), A (24) and C (20). So for what it is worth (ie not much) the Channel Mixer gets most points.

Worth noting as well is how close Jpeg2BW is from the Channel Mixer. Luminance is relatively similar, although with less contrast. Only the straight desaturation offers a radically different result with more contrast in the mountains at the price of a washed sky.

I think there are 2 more aspects to take into account – that were not covered here:

  • How much noise there is in the B&W image after conversion – not that B&W noise is a bad thing, mind you; just a thought to keep in mind.
  • How much extra tweaking can be added to further enhance the result – and with appropriate tweaking applied, is the conversion method so important for the final result?

And indeed, Rolf and Neil commented on picking parts from different versions. I tend to agree with that: the art of Black & White is more about the art of masking than having one magical fits for all conversion routine.

So I decided to have a go at masking the image; when it comes to Black & White, I am a contrast freak – there can never be enough. So I picked C (desaturation) for its extra contrast in the mountains and darkened the sky a quite bit (without touching the clouds) – this kinda closes the image at the top. The second step was to lighten the (pitch dark) hills to give them some detail back.

And here is the final output, ready to print on my Officejet in A4, which I will then enlarge with an A3 photocopier and sell as fine art print for a mere $1000. Anyone interested??


4 Responses to B&W conversion: which is which?

  1. Rolf says:

    Great conversion!

    Did you notice how many of us commenters chickened out on guessing the methods?😉 Oh, good luck at the Art Sale.😉

  2. nmsphoto says:

    Joel welcome to the magic of the B&W conversion world.
    Each to their own as they say here in Ireland. But to me your right to pick different parts from each conversion to built up your and I mean “your image”, because everybody is different. I have my own method to doing the conversion but most importantly before I take the photo I know what the final B&W image will look and print like.

  3. nmsphoto says:

    Sorry I was logged into my own Blog that’s why the comment says nmsphoto.

    Regards Neil ( aka nmsphoto)

  4. nmsphoto says:

    Have a look at my blog (http:www.mononeil.blogspot.com) to see how my B&W conversion works on a image.

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