The folks at Infinite Tools recently allowed me to try out their Infinite Black & White Photoshop plugin (IBW). I’m a huge fan of black and white photography so I was quite curious about their plugin and what it does. After trying it out on a few unedited images, I was able to get some very good black and white conversions with very little effort. The plugin is great for photographers who want to add an extra tool to their editing workflow that will help them speed up their processing time. Infinite Black & White is especially useful for folks who are new to Photoshop and photographers who want a deeper understanding of how to process black and white photos.
Plugin Setup and use
The plugin was very easy to install, and it is intuitive to use with almost no learning curve, especially if you’re already familiar with adjustment layers in Photoshop. To start using the plugin, all you have to do is hit the create button to build your first black and white image. The plugin automatically creates a blend of four adjustment layers including, curves, selective color, channel mixer and black and white. The adjustment layers are stacked together in a group. If you like the results, you can move on to further refining the image by adjusting the individual adjustment layers that Infinite Black and White created. If you’re not happy with the results, all you have to do is hit the create button and the plugin will once again generate a new set of adjustment layers. You can continue to hit the create button until you find a conversion that you like.
The history panel is a great companion to the IBW plugin because it allows you to temporarily save and compare various black and white conversions to one another. I typically like to create four or five snapshots to compare with one another. This makes choosing the best conversion a breeze. Once you find a good conversion you can simply save the file and be done but I look at the plugin as a way to quickly create a base black and white conversion to further build on and refine.
Why Infinite Black and White Is great for photographers learning B&W conversion in Photoshop
In my opinion Infinite Black & White is the perfect tool for photographers learning how to process black and white images in Photoshop. Since the plugin simply creates variations of adjustment layers, photographers can easily turn layers on and off to see what effect they are having on the image. The properties of each layer can be opened as well, so you can see exactly what the adjustment layer is doing to the image. Furthermore, you can fine tune any adjustment layer that you’d like.
In addition to building adjustment layer groups for black and white, IBW has a variety of tools to help you craft your image even further. In the tools section of the plugin, IBW has four options for adjusting your photos including regions, grain, contrast, and fade toning.
The Regions Tool will divide the photo into three regions of shadows, mid-tones and highlights and then apply a curves adjustment layer to each region. This can be a good way to tweak the overall tonality of your photo and can be the difference between a good photo and a great photo. Grain simply applies a noise smart filter to the image to simulate film grain. The contrast tool adds contrast to the image by adding a custom selective color adjustment layer. Lastly, the fade tool adds a curves adjustment layer with the blacks lifted to an output of 12. This results in a slightly faded look that is popular amongst some photographers
One of the greatest features of IBW is that it allows you to save a custom look or preset that you like to your hard drive or to their cloud server. It also allows you to stack multiple black and white conversion groups on top of one another. You can do this by holding the option key (mac) / alt key (PC) and clicking the create button once more. Don’t forget that you that you can always adjust the opacity of any group layer or individual adjustment layer to fully fine tune your image.
While photographers learning black and white conversions in Photoshop will benefit the most from IBW, the plugin is well suited for photographers of all skill levels and I’m looking forward to finding more creative ways to implement it into my workflow. One additional feature that would nice is a black and white gradient map adjustment layer library to further refine the image. I already have a variety of gradient map presets that I have created in photoshop, but a gradient map feature would be nice for folks who do not.
IBW has a quick and easy to understand video tutorial on their website that will get you started and have you ready to use the plugin in less than thirty minutes. The IBW plugin is a good option for folks who want to have less dependance on Nik Silver FX. I will say that the two plugins are completely different, and I can easily argue for owning both but the nice thing about IBW is that the B&W conversions are very clean and will not result in artifacts from over processing like Silver FX can. At a price of $129, the plugin is reasonably priced for photographers who regularly use Adobe software.