When I convert to black and white, I want a clean, noise-free image with smooth transitions between tones. Here are a few tips for smooth conversions:
1. I use Nik Silver Efex Pro, but you can use whatever software works best for you. Just make sure you have ultimate control. Silver Efex lets me adjust all the parameters individually so that I can deal with the specific needs of each photo. I often look through my favorite presets for inspiration, and when I find something I like, I consider that my starting point. If I’m not sure about changes I’ve made, I can just go back in “history” to compare.
2. No matter what software you’re using, use a light touch. Extreme adjustments can produce noise, artifacts, and banding. Your smooth tones will go right out the window.
3. Bring out true black and true white for great contrast… but don’t overdo it! Too little contrast, and you’ll end up with a dull and unappealing photo. Too much contrast, and you’ll lose details. A little bit of black and white go a long way. The trick is to produce smooth tones in between those two extremes.
4. And don’t be afraid to try high-key or low-key conversions. Sometimes, using only bright tones – or only dark ones – can produce something really cool. It just means that the transitions between tones should get even more attention. But that’s another blog post entirely. 🙂