Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


The Art of Raw Conversion #008


Pure B&W workflow with Capture One DSLR

article by Uwe Steinmueller (6/10/2003)



Recently we started looking into B&W again. We always loved the power of abstraction that B&W provides. But we might not be alone in the observation that working in Color (have a look at our color work) and B&W is a very different thinking and more importantly feeling.

In fact during the process of creating good B&W photos we get distracted by any color we see (especially of the same photo). What we want to do is thinking in B&W only.

Color Conversion techniques

We probably know most of the endless variations to convert Color to B&W and most of them are based on Photoshop:

  • Channel Mixer
  • Hue/Saturation Desaturated
  • Photoshop plug-ins
  • Photoshop actions and automation plugins
  • Toning using Duo/Quadtones or Gradient Maps
  • Converting to gray in the raw converter (Adobe Camera Raw, Capture One DSLR)

Nothing can probably beat the power of all these techniques but they all require switching from color to B&W and distract the pure B&W viewing process.

Using Capture One DSLR

First we realized that Capture One DSLR (C1) allows to view images in grayscale. This is nice but not exciting.

C1 can also convert to grayscale on output.

This creates a grayscale image with a gamma of 2.2. We would like to have instead a B&W image in RGB mode.

The solution is to create a new profile that converts to B&W. Can be done with the profile editor of Capture One DSLR by desaturating the colors. Unfortunately C1 only allows a desaturation by 30% in one step. That is why we needed to repeat this process a couple of times to come up with a first B&W profile that we share with our readers.

Now we are close to our goal of a 100% B&W workflow.

1. Select the new B&W profile as default for your camera

This has an amazing side effect: Also the thumbnails show in B&W

2. The Exposure, Contrast, Levels and Curves tools in C1 are very good to control the B&W contrast and brightness

3. The techniques in Photoshop (Channel Mixer) allow you to filter the color image to get a better B&W rendering. Here we can (miss)use the WB control in C1.

All three controls (Temperature, Tone Balance and especially Color Cast) have an influence on the B&W conversion (settings can also be saved).

In addition the "Color Saturation" can be used to change the B&W rendering. You can even try to mess with the single RGB channels in Levels (Curves unfortunately don't allow this in C1 right now)


Death Valley (1Ds photo converted in C1)

Working in Color & B&W

If you want to work in B&W and color this use of C1 would only allow you to have one type of settings and previews in your cache.

We installed C1 a second time in a different folder and ensure that the cache is not shared (by default). You don't even need to go through the licensing hassle again by copying the *.lic file from the old installation root to the new installation root.

Printing with Epson 2200/7600/9600
Actually toning these B&W photos with Duo/Quatones or Gradient Map gets nice results. But in the ned these print are not free of metamerism with the standard 2200/7600 inks. That is why we print using the ImagePrint 5.5 RIP and select some toning tint in the ImagePrint driver.

It sounds like we are excited. Right, we are and hope you give it a try.

We are sure that other might come up with even better B&W profiles and they can share it with our readers through this site (e.g. Tri-X simulation profiles)


Bodie (D1x converted with C1)


We try to keep the B&W photo not too contrasty in C1. Later we open the file in Photoshop and apply some initial mild sharpening (applied as an layer so that we later could improve the sharpening).

Then we tweak the black and if necessary the white point in an Adjustment Layer

to get the final B&W snap. This way we can tweak the brightness and contrast later. Finally the image gets saved as PSD file. ImagePrint 5.5 can open these PSD files and print using a custom ImagePrint gray profile.


Bodie Door (D1x converted with C1)

Settings revisited (12/16/2004)

Sean Reid liked this technique and came up with very nice settings (he thinks they provide some Tri-X feeling). Before you use the settings you may first read the full article above.

1) Use the profile we provided

2) Change WB settings

- Color Temp: 2750

- Tint: -26

- Hue: 243

- Sat: 30

Note: Due to a bug in C1 you cannot save the tint setting if you save WB settings in C1.

Once you use these settings you then tune the tonality of the B/W image using the level dialog in C1 (mainly black point, exposure, contrast and brightness via the middle slider).

We feel this is a very fast an pleasing B/W workflow with excellent results. Here a sample that was done in a few seconds only in C1:

Mission Soledad (1Ds Mk. II)


Note by Sean Reid: Watch that -26 tint level with sky areas though. It can push them into
real tonal weirdness. I just reduce down from 26 until the sky seems OK...maybe 20, maybe 15, etc.


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