What are some keys to look for when converting a colored image to a successful B+W? High contrast?
Yes Rambler High contrast is a must for compelling B&W images. Some things just look better in black and white anyway. if the colors in a photo arent working for you try converting it. Personally, I Like the B&W conversion tool in PS CS5 although there are many plugins to help you along. Nik software makes one that alot of people like called Silverfx. With the tool in CS5 you can adjust "colors". for ex. if your image has red flowers and no other red you can use the red slider in the tool and adjust it so what would be red is now brighter or darker in the image. This allows you to tweak some things to add some contrast. Another thing to look at is like tones. Greens and reds for example are high contrast in the color world but if the tones are similar they will blend together in the B&W world. White clouds on blue skies usually help keep whats above the horizon interesting. Using a polarizer with help bring out the clouds more while rendering the sky closer to black. Check your histogram when shooting the image and when processing to ensure you have deep shadows and bright highlights. That will help keep your image from looking gray and muddy. Dodging and burning are also useful but try not to blow out the highlights and burn in the shadows excessively. A little trick i like to use for increasing local contrast and apparent sharpness in images that are lacking is the unsharp mask in Photoshop. Set the amount to 20% the radius to 50pixels and threshold to 0 and watch the magic happen. i dont know why but these values always work. Here is the color version just for comparison