Better Travel Pictures: Turning Color Photos into Black & White Art

Taking color photos to create Black & White artistic photography makes for great gifts, memorable photographs, and is a matter of experimenting with Photoshop to craft new versions of your favorite images.

Photoshop can take your color photos and transform them into vividly artistic Black & White photography. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, June 24, 2017 – If you have ever gone to a photography exhibit in a museum you will notice most of them are in black and white. These beautiful, stark images are painstakingly printed in a darkroom.

Shooting a lot of black and white for actor’s headshots was a lot of fun. With black and white you could use any type of lighting and you did not have to deal with the color temperature gradations.

Monique St. Pierre
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Many photographers like being able to shoot with Fresnel lights which were used a lot in the 20s through the 50s in glamour photography.

You could paint with the light and see it before your eyes without the use of a Polaroid as with strobe photography.

Actors head shots were once almost exclusively shot in Black & White.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Many a photographer in the 80s had Fresnel lights to shoot people, products, or whatever was going to be shot on black and white film.

A light meter was used to see what your ratios were in all the areas in your image.

Finding a great printer was always a goal when taking black and white film if you did not have a darkroom to do your own prints.

An example of a color headshot turned to Black & White. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

When you found that printer life was so much easier. They were so much a part of a photographer’s world.

Many photographers just did not have the time to spend in a darkroom.

In the digital age Photoshop make it easier to experiment with photographs. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Now we are in the digital age and have been for some time. Many of you have probably never thought about black and white instead of color. You may want to see what your images would look like in black and white.

The color version of an actors headshot.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)
The same photo when transformed into artistic Black & White. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

It is easy using Adobe Photoshop or an app to unsaturate the color and end up with a black and white. You will notice when you have done this that the image is a mass of greys with not much white or black. Contrast is the key word here.

World renowned music producer Bob Ezrin.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)
Bob Ezrin transformed into Black & White.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

In Adobe Photoshop, go to brightness and contrast. If the image could use a little brightening then adjust the brightness level. Then try adjusting contrast. You will be surprised how much better your image will look.

Finally some nice black areas and some nice bright whites will emerge and stand out that will make the image much more pleasing.

Color headshot of actress Carrie Stevens.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)
Adjusting contrast to produce a vivid Black & White photograph.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

You may want to get more detail in an image by way of shadows and light in Adobe Photoshop. The shadow area can be opened up and more detail visible.

You just need to play around with your choices and use your eye to get to a place where it is pleasing to you.

Years ago a lot of photographers always had black and white film in their little point and shoots when they were out and about. It was their way of trying new things and not having to spend as much time dealing with settings.

The Canon Sure Shot was a popular camera and it fit easily in your pocket. Today a lot of people use point and shoot cameras or their cell phone cameras that now shoot digital. It is nice to have both color and black and white to choose from.

Color travel photo in Italy.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)
Transforming these photographs to Black & White can make for a great gift item for friends.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Black and white photos were always a great gift to give everyone. Whether it was an image of people or an image of lovely scenery. Somehow a person was more likely to put your gift of a black and white image in a frame.

With black and white you could have the printer do sepia prints. This was done with a color wash that has a light brownish yellowish color.

Orginal color photo of redwood trees on a golf course in Sonoma County. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)
That same photograph in sepia tone. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)
That same photo in vivid Black & White with brightness and contrast adjusted. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

This was great when you did hand coloring with people as your subjects. It helped get a color closer to actual skin tones. There were other wash colors like blues, reds and yellow.

Black and white was a really great medium to work with the images and experiment with sepia tones and other color washes. Getting creative with your black and white was fun to do and everyone noticed your work.

Hand tinting black and white photographs used to be what they did in the old days when there was no color film at all. It had a comeback in the 70s and 80s. While it made for a very special gift, it was time consuming.

Hand tinted sepia tone photograph of flamingos on Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania. (Photo by Isgo Lepejian. Hand Tinting by Alison Reynolds)

In Adobe Photoshop we can now take an area and keep it from being unsaturated by lassoing the areas you want de-saturated and keeping the color in other areas.

This will take a lot of practice, but what comes out of the process of experimenting with these apps and types of actions are beautiful images that are truly creative and eye catching.

Alison Reynolds is a renowned Los Angeles photographer.

Facebook: Alison Reynolds Photography
Twitter: @BigAlPeoplesPal

Alison’s husband is CDN travel writer Joel Berliner: @JoelBerliner

CDN travel articles featuring Alison’s photography can be found at:

All photos by Alison Reynolds

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