Black and White Conversions

I decided to experiment with Black and White photography again. As I mentioned in an earlier post, with mirrorless cameras you can ‘see’ BW in the viewfinder even if you are shooting raw. In the blog post, I said it worked in raw+jpeg mode. Turns out, you can skip the jpeg version but you will still see BW in the viewfinder. So, I did that.

When I imported the images into Lightroom, I applied the Provia preset. Then,using multiple methods, I converted the images to BW. The methods used were: the LR calibration panel; the LR BW conversion in the develop module; Photoshop; Nik Silver Efex, Luminar 2018; and finally, On1 2017. A note on versions – I have LR6.14 and Photoshop CS6 (13.06); the last non-subscription versions. On1 is also downlevel by one version. Luminar is up to date. (Click on an image to see a larger version.)

Here’s the original image with a few minor adjustments made in Lightroom.



Since I had not used raw+jpeg in the camera, my first conversion was to change the profile using the camera calibration panel in LR. That means this is really Adobe’s version of the camera profile. I used Fuji’s Raw in-camera convertor to get the jpeg version; that is, what the jpeg would have looked like so I could compare what Adobe and Fuji differed. There are only slight differences. I should note both Adobe and Fuji allow the user to change the profile – I didn’t do that.

On the left is the version made using the Camera Calibration panel.







Next up, using the BW conversion in LR. I thought the columns in the picture should contrast more with the surrounding material so I used the B&W panel in LR to increase the contrast. Basically I lowered the magenta leaving the other settings the same. You can see the result on the right.






You can see that change made the columns darker but it also smoothed out some of the imperfections. This image compares the two with the LR conversion on the right.

I thought that Lightroom and Photoshop would produce the same results but that’s not quite true. The controls are slightly different in Photoshop. Here’s the Photoshop conversion. Note the imperfection in the column is visible.




Next up was Nik – I have the most recent version from DXO but I don’t think there’s been any significant changes from the last Google version. Here’s that conversion. Different but not significantly so. It’s a little darker but that’s probably a user thing. I don’t claim to be expert in any of these.



On to Luminar 2018. Here’s that version. It seems pretty consistent with the others. My Lightroom version is the only one that removed the imperfections.





And finally, ON1 2107. I always find ON1 to be a little more difficult to use – probably mostly user resistance. The ON1 version has a little more grit than the others – most likely due to my lack of technique.

So, what to use? Clearly, assuming you own LR, that’s the quickest way to go and the results are fine. Nik is currently free and very good. In a more general test – one using more images -I would probably continue to use Nik. Luminar is easy to use and yields very good results. If they had digital asset management, that would be a good alternative. As it is, you have to use something use for DAM. I want to like ON1 but continue to struggle with using it. YMMV