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I have lots of color photos (RAW and JPEG), and want to see which ones would look good in grayscale, without having to explicitly convert all the photos.

Is there any software that provides this functionality? Having side-by-side comparison with color and B/W would also be nice, but it's most important that I can browse through photos in grayscale without explicitly converting and saving them.

EDIT: I am using OS X and Windows, software for either OS is fine.

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    Note also that even if a photo looks dull with the default grayscale conversion, you can obtain great results by adjusting the balance between color channels before grayscaling it. – jpa Sep 21 '15 at 6:40
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You didn't specify an operating system, but for Linux and friends, geeqie can toggle between normal and grayscale display at a keystroke (Shift+G by default).

  • Thanks, looks like a great piece of software, I am however not on Linux. Updated my answer with OS info. – Geir Sagberg Sep 21 '15 at 7:33
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All changes in Adobe Lightroom are temporary until you export them. With that in mind I would use Lightroom and select all and convert to grayscale then work through the images as desired. Once done I'd switch them all back out of greyscale with an undo function.

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    You can do the same thing with Canon's Digital Photo Professional as well. I would imageine Nikon's View NX and other camera maker's own raw conversion software also have the capability to apply a single edit to all selected images. – Michael C Sep 20 '15 at 23:58
  • Yes, any non destructive editor should work just fine. – dpollitt Sep 21 '15 at 0:02
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    Because this solution is crap (not what you've written but "get Lightroom and open them all") if no one gives a better answer I shall write a program to do this. Greyscale is easy. – Alec Teal Sep 21 '15 at 7:39
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    @AlecTeal a simple script over ImageMagick could easily be used to generate previews. – Chris H Sep 21 '15 at 13:50
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    @ChrisH you don't say :P I was going to write my own library! (Sarcasm, +1 for ImageMagick) – Alec Teal Sep 21 '15 at 13:57
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If you don't mind the rest of your UI being in greyscale, you can switch to an all-greyscale display in OS X without any extra software:

System Preferences → Accessibility → Display → "Use grayscale"

This will obviously prevent a side-by-side comparison of a greyscale and colour image, but you can at least quickly toggle the display mode. Unfortunately I couldn't find a way of assigning a keyboard shortcut to it, though.

  • Thinking outside the box, I like it :) – Geir Sagberg Sep 21 '15 at 9:05
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For JPEG images, you could use IrfanView.

It has an option to load images as greyscale. Go to Options menu, then Properties/Settings, then JPEG/PCD/GIF. Then tick the box for Load as grayscale. This setting will be remembered for any images you load.

You can use a command line option to specify a different INI file for the settings, so you could set up one shortcut for IrfanView in greyscale, and one in colour. So could view these side by side.

But I don't think this will work for RAW files. IrfanView can load some RAW formats, but only in colour.

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