I used to think that my photos needed color to be compelling, but a good black-and-white image can be very powerful. Of course, producing a monochrome image from a color one is not as simple as removing the color information.
Talented photographers like the late Ansel Adams, who worked primarily in black and white, often shot with colored filters to highlight certain aspects of a subject, and then spent hours in the darkroom getting the tonality just right.
Today, there's a Mac app called Tonality. It's US$24.99 (on sale for $17.99 through the weekend) at the Mac App Store, and it offers great control over the final look of your black-and-white image. Yes, many of these tools are available in Photoshop and Lightroom, but this app is quicker and easier to use.
It features more than 150 pre-sets to get you started, but you can easily create your own looks. The app even supports digital color filters, so you can get very selective about how skies and other things in your image translate to black and white. For example, A red filter, used so frequently by Ansel Adams, darkens a light sky while letting the tones of the landscape pass mostly unchanged. Tonality gives you the freedom to experiment and create some really stunning photos.
The app also includes pressure-sensitive brushes and masking tools, and you can work with multiple layers. You also have control of selective blurring, vignette creation and frames.
Using the app is quite simple. You can load up to a 16 bit raw file and edit away (JPEGS or TIFF files are fine too). Down the right side of the screen are a series of pre-sets, or you can use sliders and filters to get the look you want.
When you're done editing, Tonality offers several export options. You can output to iPhoto, Aperture, Photoshop or Lightroom. You can also export to several social photo services like Flickr, Facebook, and SmugMug. Finally, you can share any image via email.There are also options to have your work professionally printed for postcards, framed prints, or prints on canvas. The only thing I found missing is the ability to compare your original color image, which would be good to have.
If you want a bit more, there is a Pro Edition available for $69.99. It's not available in the Mac App Store, but it adds things like plug-in support for Photoshop and Lightroom. It also adds more layers (eight rather than five) and some improvements in the histogram display.
Tonality is a very powerful package that is going to make a lot of photographers happy. Unlike Photoshop, it doesn't require a subscription. If you want to explore black-and-white imaging this is a great tool to have.
Tonality requires OS X 10.8 or later, and a 64 bit processor.