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Converting B & W Photos

A reader asks:

“I noticed my camera has a setting on it for shooting in B&W. If I want B&W photos, can’t I convert them in my imaging software? Is it better to use the camera instead?”

First off, B&W from the camera isn’t any better than B&W converted via your imaging program. I really think that sometimes manufacturers of cameras – or any electronic gadget – like to add as many “easy from them to do” features as they can. You know, just to say, “Hey, look at all these features!”

At first, a B&W mode for your camera seems to be one of those times, however, there is an advantage to shooting in B&W straight from your camera: Smaller image files.

Say for instance you just came across an incredible scene – maybe the Space Shuttle makes an emergency landing on your street or something. You only have your lowly 8 meg card that came with the camera, and you know you’ll fill it up after just a 10 photos. If you switch to B&W you’ll find you get at least 20 or 30 photos on that same card (possibly more).

That said, converting your color photos to B&W is really easy, so I recommend you shoot in color unless you look up and see the shuttle with its landing gear extended. Nothing worse than looking over an image you just took in B&W and wishing it was in color.

As for converting a color image to B&W (often referred to as “grayscale”), that’s about as easy as it gets. Most (think 99.9%) imaging programs have an automatic setting for this. You can either change the color mode to Grayscale or B&W or you may find a menu option that says “Convert To Black and White”. It’s usually only a mouse click or two.

Once you convert to B&W, you may want to touch up your contrast and brightness to give the image more (or less) snap.

Happy shooting!

~ Steve