Basic Black and White Techniques

I haven’t posted in a while, but that does not mean that I haven’t been doing any photography. I stuck to the plans laid out in my last post, and I’m here today to display the results.

This post will be the first in a series of posts I plan to do on my experiments in black and white photography. As you can probably tell by now, my photography skills are not exactly of a professional standard, so I’m basically learning along the way, and writing what I learn as a series of tutorials as I go.

This first post will be on the most basic techniques of converting a picture to black and white in Photoshop Elements (I’m still using version 10 if anyone wants to know).


I used this image as an original. When searching for an image to take in black and white, you have stop seeing it in terms of colour, and think more in terms of tonal contrast and texture. I felt that this picture of a doorway, that was once the entrance to a closed down night-club, was a good example of a subject with enough tonal contrast in the gaudy paintwork and enough texture in the brickwork and door itself.

While it is possible to take black and white pictures in-camera, there tends to be less actual control over the process. Shooting in colour and converting to black and white using software afterwards gives you more options to play around with.

The simplest method to convert to black and white in Photoshop Elements, is to access the Image menu, select Mode, then select Greyscale. The result is okay, but lacking in contrast.


A slightly more advanced technique is to use the Channel Mixer. This can be found in Elements 10 under the Enhance Menu, then select Convert to Black and White.

This will bring up a menu which allows you to adjust the intensity of each RGB colour channel, which can effect the intensity of the Red, Green and Blue colours. Dragging the pointer towards the “+” mark will lighten that specific colour in the picture, while dragging it towards the “-” will darken it. You may want to play around with this setting to get the hang of it.

This menu also gives you the option of different styles of black and white, such as Infrared or Newspaper. Again, this is something you might want to play around with, but it doesn’t give you the control over the final image that the Channel Mixer gives you.


In my final result, I found that lightening the Green channel improves the contrast and brings out the texture in the overall picture.  Probably not the greatest example of black and white photography, but it does at least illustrate the basic techniques.