|On A Brighter Day - Tehachapi, California|
Before I explain the how, I should first mention the why. The reason that you want to convert images to black-and-white is that monochrome photographs are more dramatic and have a fine-art feel. A color photograph should only remain in color if color is essential to it.
Now there are a whole bunch of different ways to convert a color image to black-and-white. Most digital cameras have an option built into the camera to do this. There are a host of different computer software programs that will accomplish this, and within each of those there are different options. Most photo labs will even do it for you if you have your photos printed at their store.
As far as software goes, you could spend well over $500, or you could spend absolutely nothing. I personally prefer spending nothing whenever I can.
Other good free photo editing programs are Google Picasa (simple to use and easy to learn, but limited on what it can do), Paint.NET (which is my personal favorite), and GIMP (pretty much the same thing as Photoshop, except it is free). There are many others, and new ones coming out all of the time. A Google search will reveal all sorts of options.
Within Paint.NET, there are about a half dozen different ways to convert an image to black-and-white. Each one works well, but the results are a little different. You have to play around with them to figure out which you like best. I explained one method here (click here).
Most photo editing software programs make converting an image from color to black-and-white pretty simple. It is usually a one or two step process. There are, of course, more advanced techniques that you could learn, but those aren't required.
The most common advanced technique is to tone an image. This replicates the use of different chemicals in printing film photographs. You could make an image warmer or cooler, or whatever tones you want, really. There are a bunch of different ways to do that. I explained one method here (click here), but I don't currently use that technique anymore.
Converting color photographs to black-and-white can be pretty simple. You can make it a complex process if you want, but it can be as easy as one click on your computer. You don't need to spend any money, either.