Black and white photography never lose its charm even in the digital photography era. It is difficult to find a camera that does not offer a Black and White mode. Nikon is no exception. If you shoot JPEG, the camera performs the color conversion in the built-in processing engine. This leaves you with little control over the process. Raw shooters are much better off because the Black and White mode in the camera is merely a tag in the Raw file. The Raw file still has all the color information. Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) completely ignores it but Nikon software such as Nikon View/Capture NX recognizes the tag and displays the image accordingly.

So, what’s the point of selecting the Black and White mode in the camera when shooting Raw format? Not much. Perhaps in most cases you are satisfied with the default result so you don’t need to do anything before converting the photos to other formats for sharing or printing. Otherwise, shooting in color mode and convert it to Black and White is likely more flexible.

In this tutorial, I will discuss the different ways of converting normal color photos into black and white in Capture NX2.

Method #1: Use the Develop module (NEF only)

The Develop section of the Edit List is where the RAW image data is processed into RGB image for further processing using edit steps in the Adjust section. You can conveniently run the B/W conversion in Develop->Camera Settings->Picture Control.

Capture NX2: Edit List, Develop, Camera Settings

Capture NX2: Edit List, Develop, Camera Settings

Nikon’s latest DSLR camera models support Picture Control but earlier ones do not. When you expand Camera Settings section, there will be slight differences depending on if the Camera that produced the RAW photo supports Picture Control. If not, below is the screen you’d expect to see. The drop-down menu under Picture Control shows “Non-Picture Control” by default and users are offered the traditional way of doing adjustments to camera settings such as Color Mode, Sharpening, Tone Compensation, and Saturation.

Capture NX2: Picture Control, Non Picture Control

Capture NX2: Picture Control, Non Picture Control

Click on the drop-down menu next to Color Mode, select Black-and-white or other options that simulate filter effect (more on this later).

Capture NX2: Non-Picture Control Color Mode options

Capture NX2: Non-Picture Control Color Mode options

If your camera supports Picture Control, you have only one option: Picture Control. There is no “Non-Picture Control” option available. If your camera does not have Picture Control (e.g. D70, D200, etc), you can do things both ways including the “Picture Control”-way. As shown in the following screen capture, the option you want is “Monochrome”.

Capture NX2: Picture Control

Capture NX2: Picture Control

To fine-tune the B/W conversion, expand the “Advanced” section under Picture Control. Here you have the options to adjust brightness, contrast, and select filter effects.

Capture NX2: Picture Control BW filter options

Capture NX2: Picture Control BW filter options

Method #2: Photo Effect filter

Select this option via Filter->Photo Effects.

Capture NX2: Filter, Photo Effects

Capture NX2: Filter, Photo Effects

In the dialog box that pops up, select Black and White from the Method drop-down. You can adjust brightness and check the Enhance Dark Tones option if you like a darker shadow. The color slides work as channel mixer to control how much of each channel contributes to the final B/W image.

Photo Effect Black and White option

Photo Effect Black and White option

Method #3: Black and White Conversion Filter

This is the option to use if you want to have maximum control over how your B/W photo looks by using filters. Select this option via Filter->Black and White conversion, or use keyboard shortcut Ctrl-Shift-B.

The filter Hue slider lets you select the color of the filter. You can think this as the physical filter you can place in front of the lens. The filter allows the the light of its own color to pass most efficiently but blocks the the other colors to different degrees. In the old days of the black-and-white film photography, the color filters were used to control texture and contrast by selectively lighten and darken certain parts of the photo. If you are interested in learning more about color filters, a good article can be found here.

The Color Filter Strength slider controls how strong the filter effect is. You can also adjust overall image brightness and contrast using the Brightness and Contrast sliders.

Capture NX2: Black and White Conversion filter options

Method #4: De-saturation

This is not a good option but included for completeness. You can get a quick B/w image using Adjust->Color->Saturation/Warmth (or shortcut Ctrl-U). Dragging  the Saturation slider all the way to the left will remove color information from the image.

Summary

Method #1 directly works on Raw data and it is not even an option for JPEG shooters. It also has a limited adjustment options. The adjustments in the Develop section of the Edit List do not have the access to the U-Point or or other local selection tools. All adjustments are made to the whole image.

Both method #2 and #3 offer a greater range of adjustments and the ability of fine tune the final B/W image. They are available in the Adjust section of the Edit List. If you’d like to achieve the effect of leaving color in part of the photo, you can do that with the help of selection tools. Out of these two methods, #3 is probably the best option for most people.

Posted in: Tutorials on October 20th, 2008. Trackback URI
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