However, by just being aware of a few key points, you can easily learn to use contrast to improve your black and white photography.
The red filter made the boat look darker making it difficult to clearly see the details on the boat. Because yellow and blue colours are so dominant in this photo, I find that the most beautiful conversion comes from using a yellow filter, giving the boat a bright tone.
To a photo editing software, grayscale is also a way of storing information about how a photo is presented, just like RGB or CMYK.
You can do the same when you use colours to create more black and white contrast in your photos. If you have no dark tones in the background, look for colours instead.
Explore your camera’s settings and photo editing software too. This way you’ll learn the options you have when you want to create and work with black and white images.
Take a look at this photo above. You will find that the deer almost blends in with the high grass in the photo when it is converted into black and white. This is because the brown colours of the deer and the high grass have similar tonal values.
Next, I would pull the blue slider to the left to darken make the blue colours convert into a darker tone.
A wide or high tonal contrast means that the photo contains areas with both black or very dark tones and extreme bright or white tones.
These settings are the ones used for the photo of the yellow boat on blue water. Note, that it might be necessary to adjust several of the sliders. In the case of the boat photo, the boat was more yellow-orange and the water contained aqua and purple values as well.
If you find it difficult to spot the dark and bright areas that will result in a high black and white contrast, you can use the histogram as a support tool.
Look for tonal contrast Look for complementary colours and apply a colour filter either on location or in post-processing Approach #1: Tonal Contrast
However, it is better to learn how to identify what makes a good black and white image (such as tonal contrast and texture) but still capture it in colour, to be converted later.
In the Split Tone panel, you can set different tones for the highlights and the shadows.
To me, monochrome and grayscale mean the same thing. Monochrome just means single colour channel, can be red, green, blue whereas grayscale means single colour channel of grey (extreme being black or white).
Binary will mean the image consists of 2 intensity and can be represented effectively by 0 and 1, hence 1 bit suffices to represent binary image. However, some people prefer to use 0 and 255 to represent binary image, hence binary image can also be 8 bit.
If you keep this in mind when you compose your shot and seek to include colours that convert to both dark and bright grey tones, you will already have a good amount of contrast in your photo as soon as you hit the button to convert it to black and white in post-processing.
Almost all digital cameras can display a histogram on the back LCD screen. The histogram shows the spread of tones in the photo, with the dark tones to the left of the histogram and the bright tones on the right side.
Black and white photos tend to be stronger if they have a good amount of tonal contrast.
Try to find a complementary colour to the subject in the background and see if you can create a composition where the complementary colour encapsulates the subject, making a better contrast between the subject and the rest of the composition.
The important thing, however, is to be aware of the colours you include in the photo at the time of capture. If you have no complementary colours in your photo, you will not be able to save it by just adjusting the black and white colour mix in Lightroom.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography’s Photographer-In-Chief: Thank you for reading… CLICK HERE if you want to capture breathtaking images, without the frustration of a complicated camera. It’s my training video that will walk you how to use your camera’s functions in just 10 minutes – for free! I also offer video courses and ebooks covering the following subjects: Beginner – Intermediate Photography eBook Beginner – Intermediate Photography Video Course Landscape Photography eBook Landscape Photography Video Course Photography Blogging (Service) You could be just a few days away from finally understanding how to use your camera to take great photos! Thanks again for reading our articles!
The ONLY reason I looked up this question was to find out ONE thing, If I choose Grayscale on my printer, will it use the black ink (which is what I want) or will it use a mixture of the color ink ( which I don’t want ) I have the option of Color, Monochrome, and Grayscale, I just want to make sure I use the black ink cartridge.
This photo appeared on the Google Nik Collections website with the following comment: ‘This image caught our eye with its cool blue hues and simple composure [sic], not to mention that this type of colorful image is a great twist on a monochromatic image.’
If you want to set your camera to capture your photos in black and white, be aware that both Canon and Nikon call this Monochrome in the menu navigation on their DSLRs. Confusing, right?
To create a monotone photo, you can simply set both the shadow tone and the highlight tone to the same colour value setting.
In Photoshop these methods of storing information are ‘colour modes’. RGB and CMYK are colour modes which store colour information and display it in a certain way. Grayscale, however, does not store colour information at all.
If you use colour filters, you can actually control which colours will convert as bright tones and which will convert as dark tones.
Black and white images as you probably know them are images like the one immediately below. In these images, no colour information has been captured or the colour information has been removed. Note the rich variety of grey tones.
Improve Your Photos by Planning Black and White Contrast in Advance
If you still want to capture your images in black and white you can set this on a Nikon DSLR by using the menu: Shooting Menu > Set Picture Control > Monochrome.
A quick glance at the histogram once in a while will show you whether you have a photo with low contrast, medium contrast, or high contrast.
While it’s uncommon, you can also occasionally find scenes that only contain strong black and white colours.
Do you wonder why your photos appear flat and uninteresting when you convert them to black and white? If you do, it is probably because your photos lack black and white contrast. A photo lacks contrast when it doesn’t have both dark tones and bright tones, instead having only a limited range of greyscale tones.
In such photos, the warm (in sepia photos) and cool (cyanotype photos) tones were the result of specific toning chemicals used in the developing process.
At first, it can be a bit difficult to try to disregard the colours and look for dark and bright tones. However, if you consciously make a habit of spotting where the darkest area and where the brightest area is in the frame you will soon be able to spot whether a scene can make a great black and white photo.
As mentioned above, you can also post-process a photo to be monochromatic or monotone for a creative look.
Black and white photography contains variants of the colour grey ranging from from absolute black to absolute white.
As you can see it is very easy to create a contrast in your images, as long as you shoot with colours in mind. By knowing the colour wheel and which colours are complementary, you are on your way to creating more impactful black and white images.
Converting photos from colour to black and white in Photoshop is a whole topic in itself since there are a lot of different ways to do it.
You may have seen vintage sepia or cyanotype photographs. These are perhaps the most common examples of monochrome photography that existed before the digital age or even the advent of colour film.
On the other hand, a monochrome camera has no colour filter but instead has a clear filter that lets in lights of wavelengths through it unbiased.
In a very dark or very bright scene it is not always possible to use shadows and highlights in the composition to create more black and white contrast in your monochrome image. In cases like these you should try to use the colours present at the scene to create the contrast.
But if you capture in RAW format, you will automatically capture a colour photo and get more image data, which is useful for post-processing your photos.
The areas with black or white tones don’t have to be large, but having them in your photo will make your image much more appealing compared to similar photos that lack either end of the tonal spectrum.
Looking for shadows and highlights and complementary colours from the outset when composing photos will give you a chance to get shots which have a great amount of contrast when you convert them into black and white. This will make your photos stronger and much more interesting.
If you’d like to learn more about the Google Nik Collection, check out our in-depth tutorial.
Color images are displayed as Red, Green, and Blue. Each of these 3 color components is a monochromatic image. You can certainly display each one as a grayscale image, or alternatively, as a color image with only one color component active (say, keep R but set G, and B to zero).
However, a grayscale image typically represents the Luminance component of an RGB image. That is, from RGB you translate to YCbCr and then Y is the grayscale. R, G, or B as monochromatic images can be quite distinct from the Y image.
So, for image processing. Say you want to detect “Red eye” in an image. It may be better to operate directly on the R plane, or the Cr plane, but NOT on other planes, say Y or G or B.On the other hand, for contrast enhancement, you would prefer to operate on the Luminance (Y) plane.
Often you’ll hear the term ‘grayscale’ instead of calling a photo black and white. As mentioned above, these two terms are one and the same thing. However, ‘grayscale’ can also have another meaning.
Let’s take the example of green and variants of green. On the outside ring, you have the pure colour (sometimes referred to as the ‘hue’), labeled with its name.
For instance, if you attached a yellow filter, you would make blue, and violet colours appear darker than without a filter. This is because blue and violet colours are opposite to yellow on the colour wheel.
Grayscale image has values varying from black to white. Like 8 bit image has values 0 -255.
More specifically, you should look for contrasting colours, which are also called complementary colours.
Because of the time of day during which it was taken, the colours in the water and the sky matched quite well with the bath house.
If you want to capture a photo with high black and white contrast, you can use two approaches:
If you want to capture a natural monochrome image in the camera, you will get the best results if you get both the brightest variants and the darkest variants of the colour into the frame. This will create more contrast in the photo.
Monochrome is choice taken at the image sensor stage of the camera pipeline.
With your camera, look for natural monochromatic scenes to capture, or scenes that will look great when converted to black and white. Or see if you can find a real-world place that only contains black and white colours without the grey midtones. Then you can capture your own natural high-contrast black and white photo.
On the image with the boat, I ended up pulling the yellow slider to +77, but also setting the orange to +49.
The photo below is not perfect monochrome photography, but it’s close. It was captured in camera with a long shutter speed.
Vintage cyanotype photograph of schoolgirls doing calisthenics, c. 1899
This means that, by definition, all black and white photos are monochrome photos, but not the other way around.
Closest to the centre of the colour wheel, you will find the ‘shades’ or shadow tones of green.
Should You Capture Black and White Images in Camera, or Convert Them in Post?
Go to the B&W tab in the Colour/HSL/B&W panel to change how colours convert into black and white to use the colours to get more contrast in your photos.
However, be aware that this is a destructive way of converting a photo to black and white in Photoshop. This means that once you convert it using grayscale mode, you lose the colour information in the image forever.
PerBlack and White Digital Photography A monochrome image is an image consisting of a single color against a neutral background. For example, old “green screen” monitors were called monochrome monitors because they used a single color (green or amber) against a neutral background (black).
All black and white images are monochrome images, but not all monochrome images are black and white. For example, a monochrome image might consist of black on yellow. Graysacle is a method of representing black and white images on a computer.
Grayscale images are represented using only 256 shades of gray rather than the full pallet of colors. AlsoPage on utexas.eduMonochrome: Each pixel is stored as a single bit (0 or 1) A 640 x 480 monochrome image requires 37.
5 KB of storage. Grayscale: Each pixel is usually stored as a byte (value between 0 to 255) A 640 x 480 grayscale image requires over 300 KB of storage
A more accurate (but decidedly less popular) term for this type of image is ‘grayscale’. This is because the image typically comprises grey tones, not just the colour black and the colour white.
Back in the old film days, you would have to use physical colour filters attached to your lens to make a specific colour appear bright in black and white when the film was developed in the dark room and turned into print.
Take a look at the set of photos below. It shows how different colour filters affect the same photo. The original black and white conversion gave a flat looking photo without impact. The boat became dark grey, and the water also contained a lot of fairly dark grey tones.
I would like to answer this question from the image acquisition standpoint which essentially defines how the image would be for the blocks that come after the image processing pipeline and finally ends up in the memory. Consider a Bayer camera and a Monochrome camera. What’s the difference between them ? Well a bayer camera has colour filters that let in photons with wavelength within one particular band of wavelengths.
How to Apply a Colour Filter to a Black and White Photo in Lightroom
Monochrome photos are photos that contain variations of only one colour and nothing else. This could be different shades of blue, green, or grey, for example.
You’ll get the best results if you start out knowing that that you want your image to ultimately end up as a black and white photo. This way you can plan to have contrast and compose your frames accordingly.
It is quite easy and straightforward to change how colours are converted to black and white in Lightroom.
Seeking to include both dark and bright areas is the easiest way to get more contrast into your black and white photos.
When possible, you can change your camera’s point-of-view and try to compose the photo so that a bright subject is completely surrounded by a dark-toned background. This will give you a cleaner composition.
A low-contrast scene can result in a photo like this, where it is difficult to separate the subject from the rest of the scene.
Anyway, I suggest that you always shoot your images in colour and then convert them to black and white in post-processing. If you force your camera to capture black and white, it will do so in JPG format, which doesn’t contain the same amount of data.
This photo is a high-contrast black and white photo lacking midtones—gray is barely present, if at all.
The second technique for capturing photos with impact and contrast when converted into black and white is actually to look for colours.
The green is almost as dark/bright as the brown fur of the deer, so instead of focusing on the deer, your eyes move to the trees, where there is much greater contrast with the brighter grey tones of the grass.
If you want to discard colour information in a photo in Photoshop, you can opt to convert it to grayscale mode.
This histogram shows you that you captured tonal values both in the shadows and in the highlight because the histograms stretches to both the left and right side of the spectrum.
If all the elements in your photos only have bright colours like bright red, bright green, bright yellow, and so on, you will end up with an image with only bright tones of grey. This will make it a low contrast black and white photo, and it will end up looking flat and dull.
You’ll get the strongest photos and best results by looking for scenes that are naturally monochromatic.
Now that you’re clear on the difference between monochrome photography and black and white photography, go and experiment with both. You can try taking some black and white portraits of friends and family or some black and white landscape photography.
Next up you will find the neutral green variants, which is the same as green midtones.
In this photo, the colours really help to separate the flower from the background because orange and green are close to being complementary, even though it is not a perfect complementary set of colours. The tonal difference between the darker snail helps to separate it from the brighter orange flower.
A histogram like this tells you that you have no bright tones in your image because there are no values or peaks on the right side of the histogram, which represent the highlights.
If you were to make a green monochrome photo using only your camera, you would seek out a scene where the only colours in the frame are variants of green, from the darkest shadows of green to the brightest variant before reaching white.
Once you have found an interesting subject that you want to capture and make into a black and white photo, you should pay attention to which bright areas and dark areas are at the scene and whether these can help you separate the subject or point of interest from the more unimportant elements.
To do this in Lightroom, go to the Develop module (press D), and then locate the Split Tone panel on the right-hand side of the screen.
And even when you don’t achieve it fully in camera, you can still work with optimising the tonal contrast and how colours convert into greyscale in post-processing.
Applying an orange filter also gave a fairly pleasing result. The filters were applied using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2, but you can get similar results by using inbuilt Lightroom controls.
Remember that just having dark and bright tones or having complementary colours in your composition is not enough. Now that you understand how they work, you should also seek to use them actively to separate the important elements in the composition from the unimportant elements or the background.
You can still use physical filters to brighten some colours while darkening others, but I find that it is both easier and much cheaper to just do this in post-processing, using Lightroom or Photoshop.
To Get Better Colour Contrast, Use Physical Filters or Adjust in Post-processing
While the overall tonal profile of each of these photos differs greatly between the two, both count as black and white photography.
Colours convert to different dark or bright grey tones when you change your image into a black and white photo. Per default, red, violet, and blue will convert to darker tones, while orange, yellow, and green per default will convert into rather bright tones.
This close-up photo of a group of mushrooms shot from below only contains variants of yellow-brown colours. It’s a natural monochrome image.
Change your shooting angle, rearrange the scene, or work with a different composition so that the photo will include a broader tonal range and thereby get more contrast. If your subject is bright, see if you can use a point of view or framing in which you have a dark background.
Next, you should make the appropriate corrections to the other basic settings like exposure, contrast and so on. Note that you can use the shadow and highlight sliders to enhance the tonal contrast in the photo.
If you find that everything within the frame only contains dark tones or only bright tones (making it a low contrast image) try to see if you can frame the shot differently.
Another example is the photo of the underside of a mushroom below, which only contains variants of yellow-brown colours.
A close-up photo of leaves or similar would be a good example of a natural green monochromatic photo that you can capture directly in camera.
Note that you will only get good results if you place two sliders opposite each other if they are also complementary colours. If you set the yellow slider opposite to the green slider, for instance, you will get some strange artefacts in your photo.
Take a look at the colour wheel below. You can see that each colour is divided into smaller pieces which show you a rough illustration of variants within a single colour.
Mastering contrast is one important step in improving your black and white photography, so the next step is to try it out for yourself—try to be aware of both tonal values and complementary colours to achieve the best black and white contrast when you capture your shots.
Now this, in my opinion is what monochrome means-at least during the image acquisition part. Anything beyond that is in the control of the post processing and the display unit. Its these blocks whose final output is often (ambiguously though) referred to as monochrome. People often refer to the post processing output as monochrome/grayscale image and this,IMO, is a confusing way to put it and is worth debating over 🙂
You may think the terms ‘monochrome’ and ‘black and white’ are synonymous. After all, it’s quite common for people to use these terms interchangeably. They’re not exactly the same, though—there is a distinction which can be helpful to know. In this article, you will learn the difference between monochrome photography vs. black and white photography and begin to understand how this relates to your camera settings and post-processing.
Grayscale: Each pixel is usually stored as a byte (value between 0 to 255).
An example of a high-contrast black and white photo containing only tonal values in the dark shadows and the bright highlights.
Going towards the middle of the colour wheel, we next have the ‘tint’, which refers to the green highlights.
You can also decide to post-process a photo as monochrome, taking an image and limiting it to a single colour range. These days this is most commonly done using Lightroom or Photoshop, although it is not a new practice.
Monochrome image is know as binary image. Only 0 and 1 values. Like Zebra Stripes.
From left to right: Original color, Neutral BW (no filter), Green Filter, Red Filter, Blue Filter, Yellow Filter, Orange Filter. Note how applying a yellow filter results in a greater contrast between the boat and all the other elements within the frame.
You can use this technique for creative purposes, but I have rarely found a photo that truly benefits from being made monochromatic in post-processing.
To convert a photo to black and white, you first need to go to the Develop module (press ‘D’) and then in the Basic panel you should change the treatment to B&W.
You can opt to take a test shot and look at the histogram to see if the dark and bright tones are there before deciding to compose and shoot, or you can just check whether you nailed it spot on after you’ve taken the shot you want.
By identifying the main complementary colours in your photo and positioning the sliders accordingly, you can achieve a better contrast.
Since your photos might have colours that have both orange and yellow, you might have to adjust several of the sliders in the black and white mix panel in Lightroom to make the black and white photo display more contrast and therefore produce the best impact.
In the previous example photo with the yellow boat, I would push the yellow slider in the Black & White Mix to the right to make yellow colours convert into brighter tones.