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Two photos merged in Photoshop

The ability to merge multiple photos is a useful skill for real estate photographers. Even though most of them want to get the photo right directly in the camera, there are certain scenarios where merging the pictures together is proven useful and nece ...

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How to Make an Image Black and White in Photoshop

Published: 03/01/2022

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Most DSLRs and compact digital cameras have black and white shooting modes, yet they usually result in poorly converted, flat, and washed-out photos. This is why we're teaching you how to make an image black and white in Photoshop so that you can control changes to contrasts, shadows, and highlights.

How to Make an Image Black and White in Photoshop

To convert an image into black and white in Photoshop, you can use non-destructive methods like using the Black and White Adjustment Layer, Gradient Map, Hue/Saturation, Channel Mixer, and Camera Raw Adjustment tools. Meanwhile, there are also destructive ways such as applying the Grayscale Effect and the Desaturate Command.

Producing vivid colors enables real estate photographers to bring out a subject's intricate details. Photoshop offers several ways to make photos black and white. However, note that unlike editing images in Lightroom, Photoshop usually has destructive editing, so pick the method that would fit right with your workflow.

Close up of a house captured in full color

Open the RAW File

Before everything else, it's ideal that you open the RAW file instead of JPEG so that you can output the image as a 16-bit TIFF file. Unlike 8-bit files, 16-bit provides more information to work on, letting you achieve smoother tonal graduations when shifting to black and white.

Use a Black and White Adjustment Layer

It takes time to work on layers in Photoshop, although this is one of the best methods to create a black and white photo in a non-destructive way.

The layers would store the changes while the original image remains unchanged underneath. In addition, the adjustment layer lets you control the grays of each color.

  • Go to Window and click on Adjustments.
  • Select the Black and White icon on the New Adjustments Layer.
  • When the Black and White dialog box appears, Photoshop will desaturate the picture and automatically apply a default grayscale conversion.
  • Head to the Properties panel to fine-tune the conversion. Use the Reds, Yellows, Greens, Cyans, Blues, and Magentas slider to modify the brightness of the grayscale colors.
  • Select Auto to tweak the gray values using the color sliders. In this way, you can apply a grayscale mix based on the picture's color values.
  • Another option is to use Preset if you want to use a pre-defined grayscale or custom mix.
  • Enable Tint to apply a color tone. Open the Color Picker to assign a tint color. You can also use this when you want to add a border to the picture.
  • You can save this custom conversion setting by selecting Save Preset from the Preset Options.
  • Once you're happy with the changes, flatten the image to apply the permanent changes.
  • Click on the Adjustment Layer if you want to edit the black and white conversion in the future.

Apply the Channel Mixer

Colored pictures contain 3 color channels, which are blue, green, and red. When combined, these primary colors can create tons of other colors in a photo.

Since it's non-destructive, the Channel Mixer enables you to utilize the entire information stored in a colored image, adjusting the ratio between the primary colors. 

However, this option isn't available in Photoshop Elements. If you're using Photoshop CS, all you have to do is follow these steps.

  • Go to Layer, click on the New Adjustment Layer, and select the Channel Mixer.
  • Tick the Monochrome box.
  • Adjust the Red, Green, and Blue sliders to the left to lighten the colors or to the right to darken the tones. Lightening a channel's value lightens the colors close to it on the color wheel while darkening the color opposite it.
  • Pick the channel with the most pleasing effect on your photo. Note that this may vary depending on the subject and the existing range of colors in the shot.
  • After picking a channel, choose Select > All or Edit > Copy.
  • Paste the selected channel to the others. For instance, copy Green, then paste it into the Red and Blue channels.
  • After pasting, click on the RGB channel to see the black and white conversion.
House edited in black and white with Photoshop

Apply the Desaturate Command

Color is among the most vital elements of photography because it influences visual appeal that captures a viewer's attention and emotions. Even in architecture or real estate photography, the monochromatic hues of black and white can convey a message.

Furthermore, a colored image comes saturated with color. While it's a destructive method, desaturating a picture can change it to black and white without discarding color information.

  • Go to Image, click on Adjustments, and choose Desaturate
  • Alternatively, use the keyboard shortcut Shift + Ctrl + U to desaturate.
  • The advantage of the technique is that you can apply the command to a certain part of the picture. You can further use the Marquee tool to choose a section of the image you want to desaturate.

Convert to Grayscale Effect

Converting a real estate image to grayscale is the simplest method, yet the most destructive because it would discard all the color information. Be cautious in applying this technique because you won't be able to make changes later if you don't like the black and white effects.

  • Go to Image, hover over Mode, and select Grayscale.
  • Click on Discard when Photoshop asks if you want to discard color information.
  • Photoshop will automatically convert the colors to black, white, and shades of gray. However, you won't have control over fine-tuning.

Use the Gradient Map

Using the Gradient Map tool is another non-destructive way to make an image black and white in Photoshop. However, it's one of the most complicated techniques because it lets you control every aspect of tonality.

The tool will map a black and white gradient to the picture's brightness value. As a result, the white or gray parts become highlights while the black or dark gray sections turn dark areas.

  • Press the D key on your keyboard to reset the foreground and background colors and turn them black and white.
  • After that, go to Layer, hover over New Adjustment Layer, pick Gradient Map, then click OK.
  • Make sure to select the gradient from black to white. This should provide a high contrast monochromatic effect to the image.
  • Click the Reverse box in the layer's properties tab if you think the conversion looks like a negative.
  • From the properties tab, double-click on the image of the gradient to open the Gradient Editor.
  • Look at the gradient's visual representation at the bottom of the screen. Move the bottom sliders inward to increase the contrast.
  • Use the white slider to brighten the highlights and adjust the black slider to deepen the shadows.
  • Make sure to check the histogram for shadow and highlight clipping.
  • To change the colors of the slider, use the Color Picker color palette until you achieve your desired black and white hues.
  • To control the mid-tones, create a new slider to open a color palette.
  • Select a gray tone to alter light and dark tones.
  • Drag the slider until you get the necessary mid-tones.
House in grayscale

Use the Hue/Saturation Tool

This is one of the most straightforward ways to create black and white photos, especially if you're using Adobe Photoshop and Elements.

  • Go to Layer, select New Adjustment Layer, click on Hue/Saturation, then click OK.
  • Adjust the Saturation slider to get the tint color and intensity of your choice. For black and white images, move the slider to the left until it reaches -100 and press OK.
  • Click the color swatch to launch the Color Picker if you need to adjust the hues.

Use a Camera Raw Adjustment Layer

Adobe Camera Raw is a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop that converts images to black and white using an adjustment layer.

  • Choose the layers you want to apply the filter. 
  • Right-click on the layer name, go to the context menu, then select Convert to Smart Object.
  • The Smart Object will let you apply filters, adjustments, and distortions without destroying pixels. In effect, you can go back and change the black and white effects anytime you want.
  • Go to the Filter menu again, then click on Camera Raw Filter to enhance the contrast, clarity, and saturation.

Save and Share the Results

After converting and fine-tuning, make sure to save the final edit. Go to the File menu, then choose any Save commands: Save, Save As, or Save a Copy.

You can also decide whether to save the image to Cloud or on your computer.

Conclusion

There are different ways to change pictures into black and white using Photoshop. Whether you choose a destructive or non-destructive method, what's essential is that you achieve the necessary hues. After applying your desired effects, you can add the edited images to a Lightroom catalog for storage, sending, or printing.

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