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Understanding Digital Black And White Photography Art And Techniques.

Use Filters. Graduated neutral density (AKA ND grad) and polarizing filters are just as useful in monochrome photography as they are in colour. In fact, because they manipulate image contrast they are arguably more advantageous . An ND grad is supportive when you want to retain detail in a bright sky while a polarizing filter may be used to reduce reflections and boost contrast. Alternatively, make of,find taking two or more shots with unique exposures to create a high dynamic range (HDR) composite. Don’t be afraid to use a ND grad with a standard neural density filter if the sky is brighter than the foreground in a long exposure shot. Coloured filters, which are an essential tool for monochrome film photographers, can also be advantageous for manipulating contrast in digital images. They work by darkening objects of his opposite colour while lightening objects of their own. An orange filter, for example, will darken the blue of the sky while a green one will lighten foliage.

Shoot RAW + JPEG. The greatest monochrome conversions are made by editing raw files which have the full colour information, but if you shoot raw and JPEG files simultaneously and set the camera to its monochrome picture Style/Picture Control/Film Simulation mode you get an indication of how the image will look in black and white. As numerous photographers struggle to visualise a scene in black and white, these monochrome modes are an invaluable tool that will help with composition and scene assessment. most cameras are also capable of producing decent in-camera monochrome images these days and it’s worth experimenting with image parameters (usually contrast, sharpness, filter effects and toning) to find a look that you like. Because compact procedure cameras and compact cameras show the scene seen by the sensor with camera settings applied, users of these cameras are able to preview the monochrome image in the electronic viewfinder or on rear screen before taking the shot. DSLR users can also do this if they activate her camera’s live perception plan , but the usually slower responses mean that many will find it preferable or check the image on the screen post-capture.

Look for Contrast, Shape and Texture. The complimentary and opposing colours that bring a colour image to life are all reduced to black and white or shades of grey in a monochrome image and you have to look for tonal contrast to make a shot stand out. In colour photography, for example, your eye would immediately be drawn to a red object on a green background, but in monochrome photography these two areas are likely to have the same brightness, so the image looks flat and dull straight from the camera. fortunately , it’s possible to work adjust the brightness of these two colours singly to introduce some contrast. However, a great starting point is to look for scenes with tonal contrast. There are always exceptions, but as a general rule look for scenes that contain some forceful blacks and whites. This should be achieved by the light or by the brightness (or tone) of the objects in the scene as well as the exposure settings that you use. The brightness of the bark of a silver birch tree for example, can inject some contrast (and interest) in to a woodland scene. Setting the exposure for these brighter areas also makes the shadows darker, so the highlights stand out even more. Look for shapes, patterns and textures in a scene and move around to find the best composition.

Dodge and Burn. Dodging and burning is a process that comes from the traditional darkroom and is usually used to burn in or darken highlights and hold back (brighten) shadows. Photoshop’s Dodge and Burn tools allow a level of control that film photographers could only thought of taking a degree of because you should target the highlights, shadows or mid-tones with both. This means that you could use the Burn tool to darken highlights when they are too bright, or the Dodge tool to brighten them to grow local contrast. It’s a great mechanism of giving a sense of superior sharpness and enhancing texture. Plus, because you can set the opacity of the tools, you could build up her effect gradually so the impact is subtle and there are no hard edges.

Take Control. Although coloured filters should still be used to manipulate contrast when shooting digital black and white images, it’s more common to save this work until the processing stage. Until a a couple years ago Photoshop’s Channel Mixer was the favorite means of turning colour images monochrome, but now Adobe Camera Raw has more strong tools (in the HSL/Grayscale tab) that allow you to adjust the brightness of eight individual colours that make up the image. It’s possible to adjust one of these colours to make it anything from white to black with the sliding control. However, it’s important to keep an eye on the whole image when adjusting a particular colour as subtle gradations may become unnatural looking. And adjusting the brightness of a red or pinkish shirt with the red sliding control, for moment , will have an impact on the model’s skin, especially the lips. The Levels and Curves controls could also be used to manipulate tonal range and contrast, but the HSL/Grayscale controls allow you to create demarcation between objects of the same brightness but with diverse colours.

Try Long Exposure. Long exposure shots could work really well in monochrome photography, especially where there’s moving water or clouds. During the exposure the highlights of the water, for example, are recorded across a wider place than they would with a short exposure and this may help enhance tonal contrast. The blurring of the movement also adds textural contrast with any solid objects in the frame. If necessary , use a neutral density filter such as Lee Filters’ Big Stopper or Little Stopper to reduce exposure and extend shutter speed (by 10 and 4 stops respectively). naturally , when exposures extend beyond relating to 1/60 sec a tripod is wanted to keep the camera still and avoid blurring. It’s also advisable to use a remote release and mirror lock-up to minimise vibration and produce super-sharp images.

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If you have got beyond the “say cheese!” stage with your photography and you want to try and master black and white work in a digital world, then Tim Savage’s latest book is for you. It provides a lucid, step by step approach to using Lightroom and/or Photoshop to produce really distinctive black and white images.

He is a teacher as well as a professional photographer and so the book is logically laid out, well illustrated and has a lot of information presented in an easily digestible form. I put the book in front of my monitor and with Lightroom running, worked though each chapter.

This was really helpful and I found I was using, with a degree of confidence, features of Lightroom that I had kept well clear of. The great thing about Lightroom is that you cannot break the image because the editing is non-destructive, and this book allows you to work away, confident in the knowledge that the classy shot is not going to end up trashed because you turned it into a Victorian Sepia clone.

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Understanding Digital Black and White Photography: Art and Techniques Paperback – 26 Sep 2016

Understanding Digital Black and White Photography: Art and Techniques Paperback – May 1, 2017

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Tim Savage is a photographer, artist, teacher and writer. His first book Understanding your Digital Camera is also published by The Crowood Press.

Tim Savage is a photographer, artist, teacher, and writer. He is the author of Understanding Your Digital Camera.

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