Convert To BW Pro 3.0; Intuitive Conversions Live Previews Contrast Control

The surging popularity of monochromatic images in fine art and graphic design has led photographers and artists to devise their own Photoshop techniques to convert their color images to black and white. Unfortunately, the Photoshop function of Desaturate falls far short in giving the needed control of the monochromatic conversion process. Other Photoshop techniques like individually adjusting source channels in the Channel Mixer feature with the Monochrome check box option are not particularly intuitive.

There are a number of plug-ins from "third-party" developers that address this process, some more intuitive than others. In this test we'll look at The Imaging Factory's Convert to BW Pro, Version 3.0, and see if it is up to the task.

Using Convert To BW Pro
The plug-in opens with a "live" image preview panel that shows the real-time results of changing the conversion parameters. The preview panel allows you to zoom out to see the full image or zoom in to see down to the pixel level. Along with the preview panel, there is a Parameters panel that contains the fine-tuning controls for the color to monochrome conversion.

A preview panel shows the conversion effect from color to monochrome. The Parameters panel has all the necessary conversion controls in one place.

Prefilter Tab
The Prefilter tab on the Parameters panel simulates the effect of placing colored filters on your lens when shooting traditional black and white film. The filter's specific color hue and saturation can be individually adjusted. Traditional black and white shooters will feel at home playing with the filter Hue slider, which accurately simulates the effects of classic yellow, orange, red, and green filters.

The Prefilter tab simulates traditional black and white filters.

Color Response Tab
Working in conjunction with the Prefilter tab, the Color Response tab enables adjustment of the conversion software's sensitivity to various colors of the spectrum. This feature is useful in fine-tuning the conversion of specific color tones in the image, like flesh tones in a portrait or blue sky in a landscape. For the film emulsion purists among us, The Imaging Factory also has included the actual spectral response curves of several black and white films including: Agfa Pan APX, Ilford Delta, Ilford FP4, Kodak T-Max, and Kodak Tri-X.

The Color Response allows fine-tuning of sensitivity to regions of the color spectrum.

Contrast Tab
The Contrast tab simulates variable film developing and printing with multicontrast filters. The Negative Exposure slider approximates the effect of changing the exposure of the "negative" by varying development time, giving relative over- or underexposure of the base image. Similarly, the Paper Exposure slider is analogous to the amount of time a print is exposed under an enlarger--the longer the paper exposure, the darker the print. Finally, the Multi-grade slider simulates the contrast grade of paper or multicontrast filter used for printing. These controls are very intuitive for darkroom dwellers, and they give considerable flexibility in creating the right look and feel of the final image. Clearly this program will be more intuitive for experienced black and white film shooters, though those who've never shot film will catch on quickly.

The Contrast tab controls are analogous to darkroom contrast techniques.