Art of Photography

Rob Townsend

Exercise – Colours into tones in black and white



Take a photo with green, yellow, blue and red in, then convert to black and white, first at default settings, then emulating each of the coloured filters.


Fujifilm X-E1 with XF 27mm f/2.8 lens; Adobe Lightroom 4.


This old wooden abacus had all the right colours so made a good subject.



Using Lightroom I did a straight ‘neutral’ B&W conversion as seen below.

No Filter

No Filter

The Green Filter preset made the green lighter, but also made the yellow and red look lighter; only the blue came out looking darker.

Green Filter

Green Filter

The Yellow Filter preset made the yellow beads almost white, and the red slightly paler than the default version, but rendered the green and blue as quite dark.

Yellow Filter

Yellow Filter

The Blue Filter preset surprised me the most, as it made everything apart from the blue beads much darker than all the other versions. The effect was so extreme that I went back and checked a couple of times, and also looked at other students’ submissions of this exercise. It seems that this can happen with a blue filter.

Blue Filter

Blue Filter

The Red Filter preset had the expected effect of washing out the red beads, and also made the blue beads in particular look darker.

Red Filter

Red Filter

What I’ve learned:

This was an interesting exercise. I’ve used B&W presets before, not particularly based on colour filter presets but more by trial and error until I achieve the effect I’m looking for. This exercise has filled in some of the gaps on why a certain B&W conversion has the effect on colour tones that it does, and hopefully will inform my B&W shooting and processing choices in future.


2 thoughts on “Exercise – Colours into tones in black and white

  1. Hi Rob clever use of subject and it shows the effect really well. As I am running a little behind you on this module it’s been very useful to see your approach to the exercises. Am just thinking about my assignment and think it will have to be plants/flowers and veg this time as don’t have much time – but will carry on thinking about it for a few days.

    • Ha, thanks! I was totally stuck myself (especially re a blue object) until I visited a friend with kids and spotted the abacus :-) … I’m finding the colour exercises MUCH harder than the design elements ones. Finding the right colours, and especially combinations of colours, is proving very difficult! Only got another 3 weeks before the assignment is due too. Wish me luck!

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