I started playing a bit with B&W conversions, thinking to myself "how hard can it be?" Well, let's just say that now I know better than to ask that. Many of you may have gone through these steps so long ago that you may find this post slightly humorous; you are exactly the people that I hope will be able to share some secret sauce with me.
So here is my progression so far. The CS4 greyscale conversion was nowhere near acceptable. Simple desaturation was no better. I tried the B&W adjustment layer approach, and while I find the idea of being able to click on an area and shift the level slider for that tone around, I still wasn't getting what I wanted out of it. The results were still a bit flat for my taste.
Out of frustration I downloaded the DxO FilmPack trial and played with that a bit. Here is the image I was starting with; I actually just wanted a crop from this but I don't have the cropped color version uploaded:
The image was cropped and some high-pass sharpening applied, then flattened and saved out as 16-bit TIFF for the B&W conversion. Note that there are a couple of different crops below; the images started out as crops of the same large file and are identical except for the crop.
Here is one attempt using FilmPack; It looked somewhat OK(still not what I was hoping for) but then darkened significantly when uploaded:
Here is a subsequent attempt using different settings in FilmPack; somewhat better, but still not what I envisioned and it also darkened from what I saw on-screen:
Throughout this process I did various web searches, looking at what were essentially variations on the same CS4 steps I had already run through. Finally I stumbled upon this technique which involves a conversion to Lab color, grabbing the luminance channel, converting it to greyscale, and performing some manipulations on it back in the RGB colorspace.
The result is far and away better than I was getting with previous methods:
I lightened it a bit too much prior to upload, but I am definitely getting into the ballpark. Regarding the darkening, maybe I'm missing something; Of course I convert to 8-bit prior to "Save As"... JPEG; I don't see a way to convert to sRGB before saving, only a way to turn off the ProPhoto ICC profile. I have a feeling that this problem is colorspace-related but I just haven't found the secret handshake yet.