This black and white image uses two beautiful things: a fabulous portrait shot by Albert Dera on Unsplash and one of ON1 Photo RAW’s excellent B&W Modern presets. Portrait images don’t always convert well to black and white, but this one works brilliantly, thanks in part to the perfect portrait lighting, the strong, symmetrical composition […]
Black and white photography
Technically, black and white photography should be ‘less’ than colour, but its popularity is, if anything increasing. Black and white suits some subjects extremely well, drawing more attention to shapes, lighting and composition than is generally possible with colour photography. Most cameras have black and white picture modes, which is very useful when you’re composing images, but you get more control over the results by converting colour images to black and white on a computer later, so it’s a bit of a dilemma which route to take.
Black and white photography is as popular as ever, though now it's seen as a means of artistic expression rather than just a way of capturing images. Its continued popularity might be hard to explain logically since it offers 'less' than colour, but that may be part of its appeal – black and white offers fewer distractions, it's less 'literal' and it's easier to control the graphic and compositional elements that go to make up a picture without them fighting or undermining each other.
You can shoot black and white JPEGs in camera or do what most black and white fans do, which is to shoot RAW files and then process them into black and white later. This offers a 'digital negative' with a much wider brightness range and more scope for manipulation without image degradation.
Programs like Lightroom and Capture One are really good at producing strong, technically excellent black and white images, or you can use 'analog film simulation' tools like Analog Efex Pro, Alien Skin Exposure X or ON1 Photo RAW to create a film-like look.
In the days of film, taking the picture was only the start of the black and white image making process and the real work was done in the darkroom. It's the same now, and the most striking black and white images are created with careful enhancement and manipulation in software.
That sounds an odd thing to say. Most people associate digital manipulation with ‘cheating’, but it’s all about the context. This site is all about digital manipulation and I didn’t even use a computer.
Balancing rocks on Poltesco beach, Exposure X5: When I saw this balancing pile of rocks, I was sure I could make a picture out of it, with the pebble beach in the foreground and the silvery sea and sky in the background.
Porthleven power lines in Lightroom: one LUT, three graduated filters. How a series of tools and effects can be used in combination towards an overall ‘look’.
Silver Efex Pro is one of the best-known plug ins in the Nik Collection and widely regarded as the premier tools for fans of black and white photography. There are lots of really good ways to create black and white images in all sorts of software, but even now Silver Efex Pro has a magic […]
Digital cameras typically offer a range of ‘picture styles’ to suit different subjects or different tastes in color rendition. Canon calls these Picture Styles, Nikon calls them Picture Controls and other camera makers have their own names.
This project turns a regular color RAW file into a strong black and white image in Exposure X5. It uses a number of different tools so it’s a good chance to see how these work and how they can be used together. It’s also a good example the kind of image which works well in […]
This shot of an Icelandic church looked nice enough in color but I thought it had a bit more potential as a black and white image – though there were a few issues I wanted to sort out first. For this project I used Exposure X. The same tools exist in other programs, but I […]
I met my donkey friend while I was out testing a Leica M10 Monochrom and 28mm f/2 Summicron lens. For those who don’t know, this is a rangefinder camera with manual focusing, so getting my friend’s eye sharp was a special challenge as he was getting restless because I didn’t have any carrots. The Leica […]
What is the mood you’re trying to capture? For his image of an Elizabethan country house, I wanted and sombre and forbidding look, and this required black and white, some dodging and burning and subtle toning.