Unless you are shooting in black and white already, when you are composing a shot do you ever look at it and think this will look great in monochrome or does that only come to you once it’s ready for editing? My method is to shoot all of my images in color raw and then decide what to do with it once I view it on my monitor. There are many times when I make two copies of the image (color and b&w) because I like the look of both and then there are times when the image doesn’t pop to me until it’s converted to b&w.
You might be surprised at how something so vividly colorful as a flower or an insect can stand so very well on it’s own in monochrome. What happens is when an image is in color your eye first notices all of the hues of the subject. The rose and butterfly photos below are a good example of this. The rose was a vivid red and the butterfly a bright green but if you had viewed them in color would you have noticed the details in the petals or the scales in the wings of the butterfly? Possibly not. Converting an image to black and white causes the details and contrasts in an image to stand out which is why it is amazing when applied to architecture and automobiles; shiny metal and chrome look great in black and white. But what about portraiture? There are some who feel that if you do portraits in black and white it’s because you are hiding some mistakes while others think it lends a classic or moody effect to the portrait. I can see the validity in both of those opinions but in the end as with any other photo it’s all about what you as the photographer are trying to convey.
So how can you convert an image to black and white? There are so many ways to do this and these are the ones I use: presets in Lightroom and PS, Topaz and Nik plug-ins, other free and purchased presets and actions from businesses like Pretty Presets and Coffee Shop, a gradient map in PS, or just moving the saturation slider to the left until the image is black and white. I don’t use the last two methods much anymore as I can get so much more creative with the other programs but it is good to know that they are available for you to use. In the end whatever the subject matter of your image, it’s your personal tastes that determine what is converted to black and white and how.