I’ll throw out an answer here, but make no claim as to whether anything I write makes for best results in processing black and white images.
I open my images in Photoshop (CC or CC 2014), which pulls up Adobe Camera RAW. After any adjustments for lens distortion/vignetting are done (if they’re done), I’ll convert an image to grayscale. I find that for my “style” (taste/preference/aesthetic/whatever), punching up the clarity renders an image with something of a visual impact or presence.
I’ll start with increasing the clarity to +20, for example, just to see what sort of effect it has. I’ll then increase or decrease the value, or leave it at 0 (zero).
After a clarity adjustment, I may drop the blacks to -10 or -20, again, depending on what it does to the image and on what “look” (aesthetic/”vibe”/feel/etc.) I wish to portray. As with the clarity, I may leave the blacks setting at 0, or even increase it to some positive value.
I then move to the contrast, and it may be anywhere from 0 to 30, or as high as 40, all depending on how I wish to present the final image.
I’ll adjust the whites and highlights to remove bright spots or areas that may appear “too hot”. Adjusting the exposure can have a similar effect. It depends on where the bright areas are in an image. With a grey, overcast sky, the sky in an image might appear rather white (blown out, even), and attempts to lower the bright look of an overcast sky may render the subject in an image too dark, underexposed, non-vivid, more muted and less detailed in its appearance, or present it other similar ways.
An example of where I left the sky “hot” is in this image:http://www.canonrumors.com/forum/index.php?topic=1286.105
(page 8 in Image & Video Galleries »Black & White »Your best Architectural & City B&W shots).
Climber’s link (in the third post of this thread) shows what strikes me as a judicious processing of an image with a dull, overcast sky. For my image, in the shot I had at the moment, details in the clouds were not apparent (it was mighty cloudy). Still, I believe that following the example of the editor in Climber’s link might have benefitted the look of the sky in my shot. Presented with a choice of the two images, though–one processed more extensively in the manner of the editor in Climber’s link, the other as I processed it–I would roll the dice as to which image I liked more. I know that I would like both images. I like having the white background look in my image, but I am confident that I would like and appreciate any details in the sky for the same image.
I want to mention, as Climber does, that color is important, and that I get the color image to where I think it’s “right” before I convert it to grayscale. I noticed one day that, depending on the color settings, the grayscale settings would be different for any given image. I tended to like more the grayscale conversions of images that were set “rightly” in color than those that were not so set, or than those that were left untouched.
I have also gone along “opposite” routes in my black and white processing, in accordance with the aesthetic and style I wished to present. This image has at least one of the settings I’ve mentioned at -100:www.canonrumors.com/forum/index.php?topic=1195.330
(page 23 of the thread, the “gentle eye” photo)
As always for me, my processing proceeds in accordance with the sort of aesthetic element(s), feel, or aspect(s) that I wish to portray. To offer a bit more about my perspective, I pursue photography as art, and not necessarily or only as a means of recording or capturing before me “just or strictly” what my eyes or the eyes of others might see. Notwithstanding my approach, I err more generally on the side of relatively conservative processing for photographs in color that are “supposed to look like something/supposed to look like what the photographed subjects are” over changing their appearance more radically–as in the “gentle-“ and “aggressive eye” photos in the post I’ve referenced, though both photographs are undeniably of eyes. The eye photos are in black and white, and for black and white images, my approach in processing is relatively less conservative than it is for ones in color.
I look forward to learning of what others do in their processing of black and white images. It is nice to see the addition of this post processing section to Canon Rumors.