Fine-Tune Monochrome RAW Files

Achieve subtle tonal changes

Here's a compelling argument for shooting in RAW and using Adobe Photoshop CS2 or higher: The level of control when converting a color digital image into black-and-white is amazing.

While there are some outstanding plug-in programs out there that can give you similar control, if you've already got Photoshop, you may not need them.

A case study:

Early one unseasonably warm October morning I shot this scene at Rutgers Gardens in East Brunswick, New Jersey. The hazy light was nice, but the greenery wasn't really doing it for me. So I converted the file to black and white by opening the file in Photoshop CS2.

With the file opened in the RAW coversion tool, I moved the Saturation slider all the way to the left until saturation was 0. Voila, a nice black-and-white picture.

But wait--there's more!

I clicked on the "Calibrate" tab, which opened up seven sliders that control tints and saturation for individual colors. Since RAW files are edited nondestructively (meaning all of the underlying info remains in the file) all of the color information is still available.
By sliding each of the controls and experimenting, I was able to subtly adjust the tonality of the foliage. The effect is similar to placing a colored filter on a camera lens, but in this case it's infinitely adjustable. I liked what I saw when I set Blue Saturation to +100.


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