There are lots of ways to make a black and white conversion, but the number of choices depends on the software you’re using.
Photoshop Elements offers fewer options than Photoshop CS. With Photoshop CS, you get extra settings during the raw conversion, as well as two Adjustment Layer choices: Black and White and Channel Mixer.
The beauty of these extra options is that they enable you to control the shade of grey that each colour in your image becomes. Typically, you can use these tools to make blue skies appear darker and to ensure that faces become the precise shade of grey that you desire.
All is not lost, however: Elements users can get this degree of control using a cunning trick with a pair of Hue/Saturation Layers. Here’s how to do it…
01 Add a new layer
Open your start image in Photoshop Elements’ Full Edit mode. Ensure the Layers palette is visible by clicking Window>Layers. Click on the half-moon Create Adjustment Layer icon in the Layers palette and choose Hue/Saturation from the drop-down menu. Don’t move any of the sliders on the window at this point, click OK if necessary.
02 Second Adjustment Layer
Now create a second Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. This will be used to turn the colour shot to black and white, while the first will be used to change the brightness of particular tones in the image. Click the half-moon icon once more, choose Hue/Saturation from the drop-down menu and click OK if using Elements 7 or earlier.
03 Change the Blending Mode
In the Layers palette, ensure that the Hue/Saturation 2 layer is highlighted. Click on the word ‘Normal’ at the top left of the palette, which brings down a menu of all the available Blending Modes. Choose the Colour option from the list. This simple change will mean that you can use both the Lightness and Saturation sliders in steps 5 to 8.
04 Convert to black and white
In the Layers palette, double-click the left-hand icon on the Hue/Saturation 2 layer. This brings up the Hue/Saturation controls. Leave the Edit mode set to Master, but move the Saturation slider to the far left, a setting of -100. This turns your main visible image of the pier from colour into black and white. Next, we’ll tweak this image.
05 Shades of grey
We now need to adjust the black-and-white conversion so that the shades of grey are the desired density. Double-click on the left-hand icon on the Hue/Saturation 1 layer. We’ll start off by working on the sky area. Click on the Edit mode (where it says Master) and choose Blues from the drop-down menu.
06 Lighten the yellow sand
Click on the Edit options again (where it currently says Blues) and now choose Yellows from the drop-down menu. This will enable you to adjust the tone of the beach area in the foreground of our seaside image. Move the Lightness slider to +35 to turn the sand into a lighter shade of grey.
07 Boost contrast in Levels
As is usual with mono conversions, the image lacks contrast. In the Layers palette, click on the Hue/Saturation 2 layer, so that the top layer is selected. Click on the half-moon Create Adjustment Layer icon and choose Levels. Move the Black input slider to 19, the central Grey input slider to 0.92, and the White input slider to 241 (click OK).
08 Darken the sky blues
The range of blues affected is preset, but we can tweak the exact selection using the Eyedropper tools. Pick the Eyedropper with the + symbol next to it and then click on two or three points in the sky in the image (this adds to the colour range affected). Move the Saturation slider to +54 and the Lightness slider to -62 to darken the sky.
09 Mask the red writing
The process of altering the grey shade that each colour becomes can be used to hide unwanted details. Here, the dodgems banner is distracting. Pick Reds from the Edit drop-down menu. Move Saturation to -12 and lightness to +75. The wording blends into the background, so is less noticeable. (Click OK, if using Elements 7 or earlier.)
10 Add a blue rinse
As a final touch, you can add a toned effect to the image. Click on the half-moon Create Adjustment Layer icon again. Choose Hue/Saturation. Click to check the Colourise option. Choose the colour tint by moving the Hue slider – we set a value of 238 to add a blue tone. Use the Saturation slider to adjust the intensity of the tint; we chose a setting of 14. Click OK if necessary when you’re done.
The 55 best photographers of all time
Stop Wasting Pictures! 10 tips for bagging keepers every time
Black and white photography: what you need to know for perfect mono pictures
The black and white landscape: make a mono masterpiece