Tuesday 6 April meeting: Mono Conversion Techniques by David Lowe ARPS DPAGB

Mono Conversion Techniques by David Lowe ARPS DPAGB


Unfortunately some technical problems with David’s zoom setup meant that in the first part of his presentation he had to improvise by switching between screens which slowed down his talk. Despite this David clearly explained the options for black and white conversations and went through the pros and cons of each one – a sort of Photoshop version of Snog, Marry, Avoid.


Avoid: Greyscale, Desaturate (though good for downplaying backgrounds), In-camera black and white (only produces jpgs)

Snog: Channel mixer (good but for older versions of Photoshop), Photoshop RAW converter, Gradient map (produces a low contrast image), Photoshop black and white adjust.

Marry: Nik Filter Silver Efex Pro 2.


For those with older versions of Photoshop the channel mixer was a good option. To get the full potential of the channel mixer David suggested putting a hue and saturation adjustment layer beneath the channel mixer adjustment layer. This meant that you had more control over the tones in the converted image. A similar approach should be used for latest versions of Photoshop black and white adjustment layer.


The second half of his talk ran much smoother, and he went through several of his impressive images showing how he successfully converted them into black and white using his preferred method: Nik Filter Silver Efex Pro 2.


Nik Silver EFEX Pro 2 (available as part of the NIK Collection of software from Dx0) This works as a Plugin to most photo editing software, Lightroom, Photoshop etc and as a stand-alone software. It has a large preset library and offers a great deal of adjustment control through Global adjustments and it’s unique Control Point tool. David thoroughly recommends this software if you are serious about getting the best black and white images if you do not already have something like Topaz Black and White software. As far as he is aware the old version of the NIK Collection (Silver FXPro is part of the NIK Collection) is still available from Dx0 for free here:



It is unsupported so if you have any issues with it you are on your own. The free version is not much different to the purchased version so worth getting if you can. The NIK Collection contains a number of very useful pieces of software. The purchased version sells for £133 but is currently on offer for £88.99 for a life-time license and has 8 Plugins.


David’s workflow

  • Bring the low contrast slightly saturated file into PS
  • Make any adjustments, clone, straighten etc
  • Determine what areas I want to separate to work on, brightness, contrast etc and make masks for those areas.
  • Consolidate the layers (Ctrl, Shift, Alt & E) and convert for Smart Filters if using NIK SFEX Convert to Mono using NIK SFEX or the Black & White adjustment layer.
  • Make adjustments curves etc using the masks.
  • Add any other adjustments e.g. Tonal Contrast, Dynamic Skin Softener etc (NIK Color EFEX Pro) then sharpen selected areas of the image using the Output Sharpener (NIK Collection).


In the question-and-answer session David spoke more widely about photography and the importance of looking extensively at photographs and art. He is a member of the London Salon and recommended look at its galleries http://www.londonsalon.org/2019-salon/4594634346


He said that one issue to avoid is not know what you want and turning up with your camera without an idea in mind. He accepted that things could evolve and you need to be flexible but he emphasised that you need to prepare, research and know what you want. You should never turn up without an idea.

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