Learn to see everything around you in black and white
I love black and white photography, especially the high contrast stuff. I think the lack of any colour really concentrates the mind on the subject matter. Some of my best black and white shots have come from the most colourful of weddings…it is the expressions and emotions that make the shot and these are enhanced when you have little in the way of distractions.
Most DSLR’s have the ability in the custom settings or modes, to shoot in black and white but why bother…have the best of both worlds.
The beauty of digital is that converting a colour image to black and white is as easy as clicking a button…in fact that is all you do in many cases especially when using special actions such as Kevin Kubota’s Action Packs.
If shooting RAW and you switch to black and white mode, you can still get the colour back during RAW processing. The information is always there, it is just that the rear preview screen eliminates the colour from the thumbnail image in order to show you how the image will look in black and white.
The trick with black and white photography is to try to “see” in your minds eye, how any image you come across may look in black and white. Spend time surfing online galleries and reading magazines to get inspiration and then go out and play.
As seen on the video above, if you shoot RAW, switch to black and white mode on your camera and you can instantly see how the image will look. Although most great black and white shots do receive some post processing but that is our little secret ; )
For example, a beautiful blue sky that looks great in colour, will look quite bland in black and white unless you spice it up a bit with a filter or post processing.
You can see some black and white conversion techniques in the absolute beginners section if you haven’t done so already.
One final handy tip when shooting black and white is to print them on nice, high quality, fine art paper. Forget your “run of the mill” printing paper, look at the pro stuff, it will blow you away and make your black and white images really “pop”!
I met the people from Canson Infinity papers at a trade show and the quality of their printing papers blew me away…outstanding!
When shooting black and white photography, using different colour filters actually has an effect on how the image comes out. You can see how red, green and blue filters affect the outcome at the bottom of this page.
Red is best for me as I think it adds some real punch and contrast to black and white images especially when you have blue skies and white broken cloud. This affect is easily achievable in most editing software such as Photoshop or Photoshop Elements these days which is kind of sad and I recommend that you still buy a red filter and get back to basics!
We covered some other filters in the absolute beginners section so let’s just elaborate a little with some images…
Many photographers use this as protection for the front element of their lens but if you plan to do this, make sure it is a top quality filter. Why put poor glass in front of an expensive lens?
The skylight filter will also add a touch of warmth to a shot as you can see in the image below…
However, if you plan to convert to black and white, the skylight or UV filter does very little to change the outcome…
A polariser filter is best used for colour saturation, eliminating glare and reflections and reducing the amount of light coming through the lens. When used as a black and white filter, it simply darkens the entire scene…
Quite a nice effect and on a par with the skylight in its effectiveness but in situations like this I would prefer not to darken the foreground too much and that is where the ND Grad (Neutral Density Graduated) filter comes into play.
The ND Grad filter, usually found in the Cokin system of filters, is great for leveling out scenes where you have a bright sky and dark ground or vice versa. Half of the filter is dark and the other half clear with a smooth graduation to make the change in exposure less noticeable.
See in this image how the sky darkens to make it more dramatic but the foreground does not change…perfect…
I love this filter for both colour and black and white and is something you should consider adding to your kit!
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