The monochrome setting usually only gives you the option of shooting in 8-bit JPEG mode, and this means you’re losing a lot of detail. To get the most detail to work with, it’s best to shoot in colour, RAW mode and at least 16-bit. This way you have plenty to work with and the added advantage of having a colour image as well if you fancy it!
First, I suggest you move Exposure to right – white tones will be whiter.
Back in the days of the darkroom, we used to use a technique called dodge and burn to either lighten or darken specific areas of an image. Fortunately, Photoshop and Lightroom have a specific dodge and burn tools and this can often be your best friend when it comes to producing strong black & white images, allowing us to lighten or darken areas of an image and bring out more tonal qualities.
Black and White Photography Tip #9: Use the correct terminology: Black and white, monochrome, grayscale. “Monochrome” means that a color is placed on a neutral background. Therefore, black and white images, which put black on a white background, are a type of monochrome image. Grayscale is merely a way to show black and white images on a computer, which uses a reduced set of shades of gray.
To get it right, we need to understand what any photographer´s soul actually wants (and likes). The answer is simple: we love pictures in which black is really black and white is really white (not gray).
In this digital age, one of the key skills you need to learn is how to ‘see’ your colour images in black and white. The easiest way to do this is to try and discard the colours and look for the shapes, tones and textures in the image.
At much the same time, William Fox Talbot also came up with a similar process in the form of paper based calotype negatives and salt prints. By 1884, George Eastman had developed dry gel on paper (more commonly known as film) and his Kodak camera was on the market by 1888, becoming commercially available in 1901 with the introduction of the Kodak Brownie.
There are a million and one ways to convert colour images to black & white using Photoshop or Lightroom, and also a number of plugins, presets, and actions available. Whichever one you choose, it’s often the little tweaks you make afterwards that produce a really great image. Photoshop also comes with a much improved b&w conversion tool (found in Image > Adjustments > Black and White), which allows for specific colour channel adjustments. Once you’ve used your conversion, you can then make further adjustments.
Black and White Photography Tip #4: Pay special attention to noise. With the outstanding low light performance of modern DSLR cameras, in addition to the noise removal programs at our disposal, photographers are used to getting away with noise.
A „normal“ photo of my wife – a bit of retouching would certainly help… But still, the B &W version looks much better…
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Black and White Photography Tip #2: Give your photo some Silver Effex. Silver Effex Pro 2 is a Photoshop or Lightroom plugin that does one thing–make black and white photos look incredible. In theory, you could replicate everything that Silver Effex Pro 2 does using Photoshop, but I have to confess that I have never been able to do it. Black and whites look absolutely stunning in Silver Effex Pro 2. The program is a bit pricey, but it is worth the money if you love black and white. In fact, when I look at black and white produced by other photographers, I like to think I can tell if Silver Effex Pro 2 was used on the image. Check it out here.
All the magic can be done by a couple of decent moves (as little as two could be enough) in the first tab.
Just before we start, let me warn you: black & white charm can be a bit deceptive – and become even a cheap effect. Why? Because of eternal and universal rule stating that most of B&W photo would always look better than the original. Just try it, if you doubt…
In Landscape/Nature, Post-processing by Jim HarmerMay 11, 201141 Comments
Of course Ansel Adams produced some of the most stunning black & white imagery on record, also came up with the Zone System, which details every shade of grey from pure white to pure black. It’s this range of greys that will really add the subtlety to your shots and looking for a range of tones is the easiest way to start producing great black and white shots.
You also need to keep a very close eye on over and under-exposure. High-key subjects can, for instance, appear really under-exposed in black & white. Try dialling in a little positive exposure compensation to balance this out. Keep your ISO low as well, as digital noise introduced by higher ISO settings really doesn’t look attractive in the way that film grain did or what you can achieve in post with Lightroom!
Another technique that dates from the darkroom days is the use of contrast. In the darkroom, graded filters were used to add contrast to an image, which is pretty vital for black & white imagery. In Photoshop and Lightroom you can go a step further and use a Curves adjustment layer to selectively increase the contrast in the areas of the image that you want it.
Quite common mistake: the „gray“ version of the same picture after we only removed colors. Boring!
Black and White Photography Tip #10: Look for patterns. Patterns are interesting because of their ordered repetition. Color merely distracts us from giving the pattern our attention. By using black and white, images of patterns are far more compelling. Once you start looking for patterns to shoot in black and white, you’ll notice them everywhere: cars in a parking lot, the shoes of a wedding party standing in line, or a row of bushes.
And here we go: finally we get a lovely and REALLY black and white photo.
Black and white photography dates back to 1839, when Mr. Daguerre found a way to fix images made inside a camera obscura, calling this the Daguerreotype. “Photography” was suggested as a term by astronomer Sir John Herschel.
Finally, black & white imagery often benefits from being slightly sharpened to bring out the fine detail. You can do this quite safely using the Unsharp Mask filter in Photoshop or learn to sharpen your images in Lightroom (there’s also some excellent LR presets to help with that on the Contrastly store) as the lack of shadows makes noise far less noticeable.
Why you like this photo? Because black is really black and white is white (not gray).
Tempted by magic of black and white photography? Let me just tell you this: before you start experimenting do remember the simple most important rule: black & white photos never get created just but removing colors from an ordinary color picture.
The easiest, most effective and probably most common way of achieving it is using Adobe Camera Raw. (Remember: you can open even jpg files in it, not only raws). On the fourth tab, use the function „Convert To Grayscale“. Yes, that´s exactly the very boring gray result.
This post is in response to a question from Matthew Tapley, who is interested in learning how to improve his black and white photography skills. I hope this article has information that is valuable enough to you that you’d consider sharing it on Facebook or Twitter.
And then make black color blacker (by increasing the amount on Blacks). Obviously, you can play with other controls, such as Contrast or Recovery.
Tips & Tricks Try the greatest trick of Black and White photography!
Black and White Photography Tip #5: Look for contrast. In my experience, the best black and white photos usually have some portion of the photo that is near to pure white, and some portion of the photo that is near black. This increased contrast adds interest to the scene.
Black and White Photography Tip #6: Find a wide range of grays. Having white and black in the image will help add interest to a picture, but if other areas do not have a wide range of varying tones of gray, the photo will most likely look dull. You can achieve a a wider range of grays by using flash to throw highlights and shadows over certain areas of the photo.
Black and White Photography Tip #8: Watch for texture. As long as texture is not front-lit, it will show contrast in fine details, which makes it a compelling subject for black and white. This is why black and white photos of old items such as barns or antiques are so compelling–they have a lot of weathered texture.
Black and White Photography Tip #12: B&W isn’t a replacement for bad lighting, but it can soften the blow. The photo of the deer on this page is an example of a photo that looked terrible in color, but which looks nice in black and white. I shot the photo at high-noon. Because I used a polarizer, I was able to cut out the reflections on the leaves and mask the fact that it was shot in terrible light.
Many modern digital cameras come equipped with a black and white (or monochromatic) mode, which users often believe is the best way to capture black and white. But there are problems with this method.
Simple controls of Adobe Camera Raw allow us to make great black and white pictures within a couple of minutes.
Anyway, black and white photography is fascinating and you should dive into it, at least time to time. But always keep in mind that you should never just remove colors from the original version – with, for instance, the Black and White adjustment tool in Photoshop (or be desaturating it).
Black and White Photography Tip #7: Use a polarizer. When shooting around reflective surfaces such as water or leaves, use a polarizer to cut the reflections of the sun’s light. When color is removed from the photo, these specular highlights can be distracting the overall composition.
So, what are subjects that make good black and white shots? Firstly, look for subjects that have strong lines, shapes and are fairly simple. Keep an eye on shadows as well, as these will define shape and form. At the same time, great b&w images need strong compositions to make them work, so look for leading lines to add depth. Whilst we’re on the ‘strong’ subject, you also need strong lighting which will help to bring out the textures and add interest to your shot.
Black and White Photography Tip #3: To visualize in black and white, only pay attention to lines, shadows, and shapes. This trick is very helpful to aid photographers in pre-visualizing a black and white image even though we live in a color world.
Black and White Photography Tip #13: Don’t get fooled. I confess to have made this mistake many times. Sometimes I have shot a photo that includes very little color. For example, a close-up of a penguin, or a night sky, or a dalmatian dog. When I see these photos in Lightroom, I often reach for the black and white tools immediately, but I am always disappointed. If the photo is practically colorblind to begin with, it probably won’t look as good in black and white as in color.
Black and White Photography Tip #11: Long exposures love black and white. I read this tip on the fantastic Digital Photography School website and decided to try it on an image that I took a few months ago. I didn’t like the picture and had almost deleted it until I read that tip and applied black and white to the photo.
From this very brief potted history grew a huge range of black and white films, each producing subtly different renditions of the same scene. Black and white photography was a real art form and produced stunning results in the right hands. And then, along came digital.
Try and avoid shooting with really bland skies, or taking shots with just two contrasting colours, as these will just blend into one when converted.
By following those tips, you’ll start to produce some really stunning black and white imagery! Oh, and don’t forget that you can always use the monochrome setting on your camera to trial the kind of result you’ll get when you’re starting out.
Black and White Photography Tip #1: Shoot in RAW. Many times when I shoot for black and white, the photo just doesn’t turn out right when I finally review it on the computer. By shooting in RAW, you’ll be able to change your mind later if the photo wasn’t as great in black and white as you’d hoped.
Black and White Photography Tip #15: HSL is the secret sauce. The last black-and-white tip is probably the most important. When post-processing a black and white, you absolutely MUST tweak the colors in the HSL panel in Photoshop or Lightroom. An exact tutorial on how to do this would be a blog post of its own, but your black and whites will look TEN TIMES better with an HSL adjustment.
You need to look for a main subject that will be a strongly different shade of grey to the background, so that it will really stand out. You can then add in more tone and texture. Do remember that you still need to bear your white balance in mind, because capturing an image without any colour casts is vital to successful black & white imagery.
Why? Just look at the pictures of my wife from out photography training. One is original without retouching – yes, sort of boring. Second picture show the most common mistake – the one I just mentioned: the picture is technically B&W, because I used the color removal tools. But is it terribly flat, gray and boring.
Black and White Photography Tip #14: Shoot in HDR!!! I’m actually surprised how little attention is given to black and white HDRs on the web. I am so convinced of the merit of the black and white HDR that I spent an entire chapter in my HDR eBook talking explaining how to do it. HDR is great for black and white photography because it exaggerates the dynamic range and edges. Nothing pops quite like a black and white HDR.
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