Comparing Two Black and White Conversion Methods

I made this image at Otter Cliffs in Acadia National Park in Maine.

Otter Cliffs #1 (Please click the image to view a larger version.)
Otter Cliffs, Acadia National Park, Maine

The result is ok, but it didn’t knock my socks off or anything. I decided to try converting it to black and white to see what the result would be.

Otter Cliffs #2
This version was converted in lightroom – a simple conversion using the B&W Creamtone preset.
Otter Cliffs, Acadia National Park, Maine

Otter Cliffs #3
This version was made using the Topaz B&W Effects photoshop plug-in.
Otter Cliffs, Acadia National Park, Maine

Perhaps it is not a fair comparison since one of them is creamtone and the other is not. Black and white conversion is not my specialty but something I am trying to learn right now. What do you think about these two conversions? Do you prefer one over the other? Does either have technical issues? Or is the original colour version better?

As always, I appreciate all feedback, so fire away!

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    • Anne McKinnell says

      Thanks Edith! I really have to get in there and watch some of those Topaz webinars to learn how to use the tool. So far I have just been messing around with it, but that is my usual method of learning software!

  1. says

    Hmmm, tough to say Anne but I think mostly because this might not be the best image to try to do a conversion comparison. If I had to choose between the two based on this image, I would pick the second one.

    • Anne McKinnell says

      Hi Sabrina, Ok, fair enough! I’ll have to try the comparison on some other images that are better candidates. I haven’t done enough of it to know what makes a good candidate, but someone mentioned a higher dynamic range. I think I was trying to save an image that I wasn’t all that impressed with and maybe that’s not the best test of what makes a good candidate!

  2. says

    Hi Anne. More homework! I’m sure you were right to go for a B&W conversion, I think that improves the image. I think the second one – the neutral one – works best. Creams and sepia tones, in my opinion, don’t often work with seascapes. That’s a purely personal opinion but I think it’s something to do with our expectation of how we expect to see ‘sea’ rendered. Technically they are otherwise great – nice tones and contrast.
    LensScaper recently posted..On the roof of AfricaMy Profile

    • Anne McKinnell says

      Thanks LensScraper! I’m so glad my readers are enjoying the homework! I really appreciate your detailed comment about what works and what doesn’t with black and white seascapes.

    • Anne McKinnell says

      Hi Uwe, thanks for the feedback. As much as I try the black and whites, and I always love other people’s black and whites, with my own photos I always seem to come back to the colour. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  3. says

    Both black and whites let the contrasting textures of the rocks, trees, and water be more of the focus, which I like (compared with the color). I like the second black and white conversion better; feels cleaner to me (and I like the gray sky vs. the washed-out white sky of the creamtone).
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    • Anne McKinnell says

      Hi Marc, ah yes, I see what you mean about the difference in the sky between the two versions as well as the focus on texture. Thank you very much for the feedback, I learned something important there!

  4. Tracy Wilson says

    I like the second one better, it appears to be sharper. But, if you compare the two, the second one looks like there may be hallows around the edges. Also, the second one seems to have a blue tint.

    • Anne McKinnell says

      Hi Tracy, halos around the edges? I didn’t even notice that. Thank you for pointing it out. That’s how I learn when someone shows me something I didn’t even see in my own photo! The second one does have a bit of a cool blue tint to it. I really need more practice! Thank you very much for your feedback.

    • Anne McKinnell says

      Hi Chris, that seems to be the big difference between the two black and whites: one is cool and one is warm. Some people seem to like the warm one, others prefer the ocean to be cool. Either way, it’s like you say, the focus is more on the texture when you take the colour away. Thank you very much for taking the time to give me your feedback.

    • Anne McKinnell says

      Thanks Russ! It seems some people like the cool tone and some like the warm tone. I still can’t decide, but I’m learning things with all the comments. Much appreciated.

  5. says

    Very nice image Anne. I like the color one the best probably because of the warm tone. I don’t do much in B&W so I am no expert but when I do, I try to pick an image with a wide dynamic range which tends to make the B&W pop.
    Len Saltiel recently posted..I Found Darth VaderMy Profile

    • Anne McKinnell says

      Hi Len, Yes, like Sabrina said, this might not have been the best candidate for the black and conversion comparison. I was really trying to save and image that seemed a little boring to me. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  6. Mark Pashia says

    I hope you get this as it is so late. I have been backtracking through your blog most of today. I prefer the B&W version as well, but it seems just a bit off. You might try a levels adjustment to it even after the filter. I tried it with the black point about 5 and upped the gamma to 1.15 and thought that was about right for me. Just a thought. Oh how I wish I could do what you are doing. My social security check is just not enough to afford this and I cannot get away from my doctors for more than two months at a time! I did make a trip to Merritt Island for two days this January. Love it.

    • says

      Hi Mark, thank you very much for your visit and comments. I really appreciate your taking the time to make suggestions on my image, I’ll have to try that out. I think it takes some practice and there are so many different ways to do the conversion. Lately I have been playing around with Nik Silver and I really like that software.

      I’m glad my husband and I are doing our trip now because so often health can get in the way and prevent you from being able to travel freely. We decided we should do our trip now while we can because you never know what will happen in the future. I hope you do manage to make some shorter trips as you can. I discovered there are lots of places where you can volunteer a few hours a week in exchange for a campsite. I might do that in the future in order to make travel less expensive.

      Thanks for taking the time to write.


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