There are many other methods for converting images to black and white including third party plug-ins. Among the most popular is from Nik Software. I have also purchased actions from Kevin Kubota and Photo Effects The beauty of the Photoshop actions is that someone else has done all the work and all that is left for you do is click on the action. They are very quick and you can achieve amazing results with all the different looks. Warm toned, silver toned, high fashion, sepia, moonlight, grainy, and punchy are just some of the options. You would have to spend tons of time to learn how to create the actions yourself. I highly recommend purchasing Photoshop actions from either Kevin of Gavin (listed above)
What Makes an Acceptable Black and White Image?
First you must have a well-exposed and sharp image. If the image is under-exposed it will appear muddy and flat in the conversion. Next have an interesting subject matter. Portraits generally are suitable for a black and white conversion. Landscapes must have gradations between white and black. Look for a scene that has bright and dark areas and middle gray. The zone system developed by a famous photographer, Ansel Adams, shows how zones are broken up into 9 zones; 0 being pure black 9 being pure white. An excellent article on this topic can be found at this website. Now that we are working digitally with the 8 bit Photoshop software, we are still working with shades of gray. If you pull up the levels adjustment tool you will see the representative and tones within your image. Generally you want most tones represented.