Post-Processing: B&W vs Color

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One of the things that you have to determine when you are shooting is how you plan to process the photo. The entire mood of the photo will be set by the composition and the processing, so it is important. I get asked sometimes on how I did my B&W shots, so I thought that a simple comparison in the post-processing differences might be useful.

Patton Hill Courthouse
Patton Hill Courthouse 7 shots HDR, from -3EV to +3EV, processed in PS and LR.
Patton Hill Courthouse
Patton Hill Courthouse processed in NIK Silver EFX, as Full Spectrum with a blue filter, and finalized in LR.

As you can see above, the mood of the photo changes when it is reworked in B&W. The initial shot was very bland, so I shot a 7 shot collection, ranging from -3 EV to +3 EV, and processed them in PS. Once that was done, I processed the combined shot in NIK Silver EFX. I chose to use the Full Spectrum preset, and applied a blue filter to darken the greenery. That’s all that the shot needed.

Of course, that was just one solution to a variety of ways that it could have been processed in B&W.
In LR, you can simply select the B&W tab and compare, and make modifications, but I am not really a fan of how LR does it. If you do it this way, you really need to drop the Highlights to ), raise the Shadows to 100, and adjust the white and black points by using the ALT key while using their sliders. This helps increase the dynamic range.
In PS, you can simply apply a B&W filter and make your adjustments, and that works ok, but takes some time to get it looking right.
I also see people drop the saturation out on either LR or PS, but it usually doesn’t give you a good B&W IMO.
In OnOne’s Perfect B&W, you can get a pretty good look quickly, as they have a lot of powerful tools built in, but I prefer to use NIK Silver EFX for all of my B&W conversions. It’s adjustment points, presets, and filters make it very simple to quickly get a nice shot ready to share.

Below are 3 examples of how you can instantly create different looks in how you process the same photo.

Patton Hill Courthouse
Processed in NIK Silver EFX – Normal Processing
Patton Hill Courthouse
Processed in NIK Silver EFX – Full Spectrum (harsh) Processing
Patton Hill Courthouse
Processed in NIK Silver EFX – Fine Art Processing

As you can see, the one in the middle is more dramatic, but the bottom one is more likely to be printed and hung on a wall.

For reference, the same photo in color can also have different looks.

Patton Hill Courthouse
Processed in NIK Color EFX and LR – Revealing Detail with warmth added
Patton Hill Courthouse
Processed in NIK Color EFX and LR – Revealing Detail with Grad ND filters

For the two above, I used NIK Color EFX to pull more detail out of the photo, and then added a little warmth to one of them. I used LR’s Grad ND functionality to touch up the other.

Ultimately, you decide how you want to present your work, so try different styles, and compare them to see what you like best.