B&W Better

January 13, 2009 ·

Michael Reichmann

NewThis subject is featured inIssue #2of The Luminous Landscape Video Journal 

Using PhotoShop’s Channel Mixer

I’ve been shooting B&W as well as colour since I started making my living in photography in the mid-60’s. I actually developed my first roll of B&W film when I was 10 years old in the mid-50’s.

For years as a photojournalist I would carry two camera bodies, one loaded with B&W film and one with colour. More recently, as a landscape photographer, when working in B&W I was always using red and yellow filters to darken skies and accentuate clouds, while green filters were handy for lightening foliage.

Now with the digital darkroom, I simply shoot colour and create B&W prints from these colour originals when desired, with all the control I used to have, if not more.

The trick to obtaining optimum quality is the use of PhotoShop’sChannel Mixer.

Throw Away Your B&W Filters


This photograph was taken with aCanon EOS D30digital SLR, though any film-based scan could of course be used as well. The frame on the left is the original colour image and the frame on the right has been converted to monochrome through the use of PhotoShop’s traditionalImage / Mode / Grayscale.

There’s a better way!

UsingLayer / New / Adjustment LayerselectChannel Mixer

You’ll see this display. Now selectMonochromeand you’ll see the image turn to B&W. 

Notice that of the three colour slides RED is at 100% and Green and Blue are each at 0%. Experiment with setting each one individually to 100% while reducing the other two to 0%. What you’ll see is represented below.

Red                                                         Green




Notice the dramatic differences. Look particularly at the reflections of the trees in the water.

What we’ve done is to create monochrome images that are the equivalent of ones shot on B&W film through a deep red, blue or green filter. Thus all of the traditional tonal effects, such as darkening of skies and lightening of foliage though the use of coloured filters can be achieved.

These are extremes, with the ratios at 100% of a single colour. Mix them as you desire to obtain the black and white tonalities that you prefer. Just try and ensure that the combined total of the mix is roughly 100%

Duotones & Piezography

If creating monochrome prints from your colour images appeals to you also have a look at my tutorial on creatingDuotoneprint, and my review ofPiezography.

NewThis subject is featured inIssue #2of The Luminous Landscape Video Journal 

Avatar photo

Michael Reichmann is the founder of the Luminous Landscape. Michael passed away in May 2016. Since its inception in 1999 LuLa has become the world's largest site devoted to the art, craft, and technology of photography. Each month more than one million people from every country on the globe visit LuLa.

You May Also Enjoy...

Palm Sunday Procession 3

April 3, 2012 ·

Michael Reichmann

Please use your browser's BACK button to return to the page that brought you here.

Making People and Other Things Go Away

July 31, 2015 ·

Kevin Raber

How many times have you been photographing a scene and no matter what you do or how long you wait, there is always someone in