Processing Black and White Photos with OnOne Perfect B&W

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Note: This week is Black and White Photography Week on dPS and to celebrate we’re offering 50% off our Ultimate Guide to Black and White Photography eBook when you use the coupon code BW50 during check out.

Black and white photography is classy and powerful. When properly done, it can be enticing and dramatic. In fact, a great portion of fine art photography hanging in galleries is monochromatic. In the age of film, all it took was to load black and white film into your camera, but nowadays most digital camera sensors are recording images in color and with that, if you want to explore the black and white world, you’ll have to convert your images in the post-processing stage.

Close up of iron fence around Jackson Square in New Orleans with the St. Louis Cathedral behind.

When it comes to converting and processing photos to black and white, there are a number of options. If you are a Lightroom user, there is a black and white option within the Basic Develop panel as well as some presets that come preloaded. All you need to do is click on them, and tweak the sliders until you get the desired effect.

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There are also, of course, more sophisticated alternatives that could help make your work easier. Among those, Perfect B&W from OnOne Software is one of my favorite options. This application can be used as a plug-in with Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, Photoshop Elements, Apple Aperture, or as a standalone app. OnOne offers a full set of applications called Perfect Photo Suite, Perfect B&W is included in it, but it can be also purchased separately as a standalone application.

The idea behind this product is to help you to easily enhance your photos. There are controls to adjust tone, curves, color response via filters, and borders – and of course, it also comes with different types of presets. You’ll also be able to create your own presets and save them as well.

As I am an Adobe Lightroom user, I’ll demonstrate some of the features of the product by opening it from there. To launch the application, you need to select an image from the Library or Develop Module and go to the File Menu, then select Plug-In Extras and navigate to Perfect B&W 9.

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One of features that you’ll probably like is the possibility to save all your changes as a Smart Photo. It means that even after your edits are done, you’ll be able to come later and redo your settings. This way, you are working in a nondestructive way. The application will pop up a dialog box when you launch it, asking if you want to edit in this work mode.

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Once the applications opens, the layout is similar to what you find inside Lightroom. The preset panel is on the left and the develop options are on the right. There is also a set of tools that let you selectively add more contrast, brightness, or even mask entire areas in case you want to do a selective color treatment.

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Once you are ready to work, you have the option to start by selecting the different presets, or just working with the sliders in the development panel. You need to be sure that you have selected the preview option at the bottom to see the effect on the image; you can toggle back and forth to show the before and after.

My preferred way of working is to use one of the presets as a base or staring point, then modify it to my liking with the sliders. The presets are divided into eight categories, as follows:

  • 19th Century Processes
  • 20th Century Classic Silver
  • 21st Century Modern Digital
  • Basic Fundamentals
  • High Speed Documentary
  • Hint of Color
  • Hollywood Portrait
  • True Film

The names are pretty much self-descriptive, and if you click on them, you’ll see all the presets within that category with previews on the side panel itself.

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As you can see in the image above, the application also allows for duotone images by combining the use of color filters, so you are totally flexible on the type of look you can create. For example, if I click the Pinhole Blue preset from the 19th Century Process, the software will create that effect, and you’ll see how some the sliders from the Develop Panel changed to create it.

From there you can pretty much tweak the image any way you want, and there is also an option where you can select the blending mode, exactly the same way layers work in Photoshop. You can also drop the opacity for a more subtle effect. In the example below I reduced the opacity to 34 percent.

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The different old century presets are great to create all the vintage looks that are so popular today, with just a few clicks and without the need to know more complicated software.

For my final image, I selected Automatic from the Basic Fundamentals, then added contrast by adjusting the Tone Curve. I also moved the Detail slider to 15 so the ripple effect on the water was more noticeable; it also helped to add some drama to the sky.

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As I knew I wanted to re-crop the image, I didn’t add any other effect here, so I went back to Lightroom cropped the image, then added a vignette.

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OnOne Perfect B&W is a well-rounded application and a powerful tool for black and white conversions. I believe the best way to judge it is to give it a try. The good thing is that the company is offering a thirty-day trial, so it won’t cost you to play with it; moreover, you can download and test the full suite if you want. The regular price for the standalone application is $59.95 and the complete suite is $149.95. They can be downloaded straight from the OnOne website.

Editor’s Note: This is second last of a series of articles this week featuring black and white photography tips. Look for earlier ones below and the last one later today.

Note: This week is Black and White Photography Week on dPS and to celebrate we’re offering 50% off our Ultimate Guide to Black and White Photography eBook when you use the coupon code BW50 during check out.

Read more from our Post Production category

Daniel Korzeniewski

is a Miami-based, travel photographer. His work has appeared in several publications and he contributes to various stock photography outlets. He often leads photography travel tours, find more about his work, travel adventures, and upcoming tours (like Morocco 2018 which has only 2 spots left. You can also follow him on Instagram.

  • Really a practical and informative post for Photoshop. I read it and appreciate for this post. Thank you.

  • Thank you for the comment.

  • Andrew Kliss

    Daniel, if you’re familiar with Nik, how do you compare the two products? I use Nik Silver Efex Pro exclusively for my B&W processing. I recently purchased (but haven’t installed yet) onOne’s photo suite. From the little I’ve seen in your article, looks to be a killer program. Your thoughts regarding the two would be appreciated!

  • abrianna

    Beautiful picture. I too am a big fan of onOne B & W. It is what I use the majority of the time for my black and white conversions.

  • I am glad you like the article and picture. Thanks.

  • Andrew, I used to have NIK, it was a wonderful product for me. Somehow after installed the trial version of the OnOne Suite I liked it better. I don’t have a particular reason both are great products. I find the interface easier to work with OnOne. I recommend you install your copy and give it a try,

  • Andrew Kliss

    Hi Daniel-

    I went ahead and installed Perfect Photo Suite 9.5. It truly is amazing software. Being a standalone product besides a plug-in, it’s almost is a Photoshop killer!

  • I am glad it served you well. Enjoy!!!

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