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In his new book, Real World Camera Raw with Photoshop CS3, Jeff has an example of converting an image to black and white. There isn't a lot of discussion about the order, but he mentions making color and tonal corrections first. If you haven't got that book, I must say that it is something that should be at the top of your list.
I've been doing some thinking about this one lately, as I am really enjoying going back to black & white work.
Some things to consider. Are you going to leave the image totally in black and white and set its mode to grayscale? Or do you plan to to work on it in RGB in Photoshop (for example to tone the image)?
In Camera Raw you can either just desaturate on the Basic panel or you can go into the HSL/Grayscale panel and convert there. If you just desaturate and then go to the HSL/Grayscale (without clicking on convert to grayscale) you will not be able to use the HSL sliders. If you do click the Convert to Grayscale your image comes into Photoshop in Grayscale Mode (but you can convert it back to RGB if you need to).
Either way (desaturate or convert to grayscale) you can use the white balance temp/tint sliders for some adjustements.
If you go and do any split-toning (in color or convert to B/W) then the image comes into Photoshop as RGB.
I would suggest opening the image as a Smart Object so that you can go back and redo some of the conversion at a later time if you wanted to. But note that if you originally converted to grayscale in Camera Raw and opened as a smart object if you go back and edit in Camera Raw and change it back to color it will still stay in b/w (unless you convert the mode from grayscale to RGB and tell it to NOT rasterize the smart object when you convert). At this point I don't know what the ramifications are of not rasterizing the Smart Object.
All that said, I'm still in the camp of doing the Camera Raw conversion in color and then doing the conversion to black and white in Photoshop. I have a number of friends who do the conversion in Camera Raw, though, so I expect I'll have a few more conversations about this.
At this point I feel I have a few more options that way. Especially in that I tend to do some toning of most of my black and white images. But I will keep on experimenting with both processes. There is something new to learn in Photoshop/Camera Raw every day.
Thanks John. I am referring to images that are going to end up B&W. I'm trying to optimize my workflow/IQ I guess I need to experiment to see how it all plays out. My question also deals with linear gamma (CR) vs converted gamma(PS)images. CR works globally while PS is "pixel peeping". I am trying to understand that angle of B&W conversion. That's where I believe Jeff could give some insight.
You have the basic limitation of Camera Raw right there...it's a global image processor. Yes, it has great color>B&W capabilities but it is global in nature. If CR can do the conversion to B&W in the manner you need for a particular image, great...if it can't then you can always open the image in Photoshop in color and do a variety of color>B&W conversions there. It really depends on what the images need.