One of the things I enjoy doing with the computer is turning color photos into black and white. The possibilities are endless. A black and white photo often changes the whole feel of an image. You see shapes where none appeared before. The whole meaning of the photo can change. A failed photograph can become something new.
When I was growing up, black and white was what almost all photos were until somewhere in my childhood where color film became more available if more expensive. After awhile color was all there was; and if I wanted to buy black and white film, which I still liked for interesting geometric shapes, I had to find a specialty photo shop to develop it-- if more expensive.
Today with digital, anybody can take photos in color, then easily transform them to black and white when it will improve the photograph. To illustrate, I am using one photo of how it can work.
In mid-July, I decided to take some self timed photos with my Canon Rebel. I had bought a new top that was peasant in feeling. I thought if I set the composition right, I could have nature, Kwan Yin, and Buddha in the background representing male and female spirituality with the woman in foreground representing physical life. Interesting concept, right?
Although I took several of these, the color actually proved a distraction. This one was the best composition but as you can see, way too dark. Still, it had all those highlights and seemed worth fooling with it. When I lightened the picture, the color wasn't accurate. Besides in a way, I did not want this to be a photo of a person but rather an idea. That's when I decided to turn to monochrome.
Most photo software has such a tool. I use Corel PHOTO-PAINT 7. With it, you go to Effects--> Photo Lab--> Monochrome.
As a black and white, it seemed to me it would be stronger yet if I cropped it tighter which is the top photo. I still wanted one of the spiritual influences to be in the background. Kwan Yin being female seemed best. I needed to move her closer to the woman to link them together. This can be done with the free-form mask tool, copying the new object, bringing back up a new, enlarged picture, pasting the new object where it's wanted it. This seemed to me to create a whole new emphasis from the photo-- all from what was a failed photograph.
If a photo is washed out, there isn't much you can do about it but if it's too dark, often there is enough information, to salvage something-- or create something totally new.