Mono Conversion / by Dawn Webb

As with any post edit technique there are a 10000 ways to skin the cat.
Everyone has their preferred way to run a certain edit, some stick to it but if like me you like to experiment and dabble then here is a technique I like to use for my monochrome work.

With the X-Pro1 you can set the camera to capture in B&W with the added bonus of coloured filters - just like the days of B&W film and coloured lens filters. You would add red for high contrast of blue skies, green for skin tones and yellow for mid contrast.  I always shoot in RAW for insurance purposes, however I like to set my camera to capture in B&W to assist me in the render of my final image, I see in B&W anyway and having the camera like this I see shadow shape and form better than in colour.  Of course it is suggested you capture a full colour image and leave the mono conversion for post edit in your choice of software. I like to edit my work in both Lightroom and SilverEfex.
I will sort a write up for why it is better to record in colour and convert later rather than capture a basic mono jpeg and rely on in camera software for the conversion.

So I have made a correctly exposed colour image in RAW and imported to Adobe Lightroom - here I can adjust any highlight/shadows and get everything looking as near perfect and tonally correct as possible. I am not looking at saturation one single bit. I do NOT carry out any sharpening at this stage , this is left as the last stage prior to exporting for output.
Once sorted I run ALL of my mono work through Nik SilverEfex 2, as I feel this gives me the BEST control. I like to set Fuji Neopan 1600 for most of my work and pull back some shadow detail before i get to work on the structure sliders.  The structure slider works on the local contrast of each pixel, be careful not to over run this slider as you don't want your images to look too false. Pay attention to shoulders on people and verticals on the sides of buildings for any haloing too.  Once I am broadly happy with the mono conversion I send the image back into Lightroom.  I now get to work on any vignetting I want to add, grain additives and maybe tweak the clarity slider a final time. Keeping a check on my highlights that may have been blown in the Fuji Neopan conversion I can bring back in Lightroom too.

Once I am happy I will sharpen for output and voila - completed.

This technique is very similar to the process I would achieve in the darkroom when I first started out. My film choice, my film develop process and times in the patterson tank along with paper choice, enlarger settings and the develop settings when I printed.  Its a very digital process but with an analogue feel every time I go through it.  I dodge and burn just like I did in the darkroom except then I used my hand and a plethora of homemade lollypop sticks and magical devices.

I hope you  like my work and my conversion styles.

Here is an example shot by a good friend over in Africa - Tom McShane.  I recently ran through an edit once Tom had attempted one himself, you will see mine has more contrast, texture and depth which adds more drama and feel to the final image.

Toms' conversion is looking flat and lifeless.


My conversion wight the legendary Fuji Neopan 1600iso plugin from Silver Efex 2.


Original colour image from a Nikon D600.