As many people know, the Super Color conversion is the most popular Infrared conversion Life Pixel offers, and is even selected by photographers wanting to create only monochrome images. However, I’ve learned that quite often Photographers don’t make full use of their Super Color images to create their Black & Whites. To get the best Monochrome Infrared images from a Super Color image you want to take full advantage of what you are capturing.
Back during the film days, many Photographers found that they could create better Black & Whites by shooting color film and then printing it as a Black & White. The emulsion layers in color film captured more variations in tones, which became different shades of grey.
We need to look at our digital images the same way, except that they are computer files, data. When you make an Infrared image in Super Color, you are capturing 4 color tones, Red, Yellow, Blue & Cyan. Each of these color tones can become different shades of Grey, the combination of Black and White, when converted to Monochrome. It’s all in how you handle the Super Color image.
Let’s take a look at this example. Here’s an image I recently made on Isla Mujeres in Super Color.
It has a decent exposure, nice composition, and should make a good monochrome. We have the 4 color tones that we get from Super Color Infrared; Red, Yellow, Blue & Cyan. If we go straight from this version though, we will not get a very impressive Black & White Infrared image.
This image has a very flat feel to it. Even if I try and work with the levels and contrast, it still remains rather flat. So instead I’m going to use what I have, my 4 colors.
Now I’d like to tell you there is one magic way to process every image, but that is just not the case.
With this image I first did the standard Red/Blue channel swap. Then I choose take the Red channel and make it Yellow.
So, I went into Image, Hue/Saturation.
From there, I selected the Red and slide the Hue slider slightly to the blue (right from center) to make the red tones look yellow.
I then selected the Cyan, and did the same thing, which makes the color of the sky a stronger Blue in appearance.
From there I adjusted the levels and contrast to get as much out of my image. This was the what it looked like.
Now if you are someone like myself who enjoys False Color Infrared, this image has quite a pop to it. However, the goal is to create monochrome, so let’s continue. There are many different techniques and Filters/Plugins for Photoshop for creating Monochrome; I use NIK Silver Efex, or the White Photo Filter in Filter Forge. Doing my Monochrome conversion, the end product was this.
This monochrome has more intensity and depth to it. Let’s compare.
As I said, there is no one system I can tell you will work for every image, but I can tell you that working the color tones that you have available will make a difference. What you want to do is work your image until you feel you’ve pulled the most from your colors, then try a conversion. If you don’t like the Monochrome version, go back to the color image and adjust the color tones in a different way. Once you get the hang of it, you will notice a positive difference in your Monochrome images.