Back in the days of film, a ‘straight’ black and white print was only a stepping stone. A properly finished print was almost always enhanced with some skilled ‘dodging and burning’. Dodging and burning is a classic technique in black and white, where certain areas of a print are held back (dodged) under the enlarger […]
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.
I was lucky enough to get a Fujifilm GFX 50S on loan for two weeks to review in Digital Camera and Professional Photography and I’m really impressed by the tonal range and subtlety it can capture. This became obvious when I started working on a set of shots from a drizzle-swept day on Exmoor. The sky […]
Why would you use colour filters when you’re shooting in black and white? It’s so that you can control the way different colours translate into shades of grey. For example, if you shoot through a red filter, it blocks colours other than red, so that opposite colours, like blue skies, for example, come out much […]
The way that certain cameras feel and work and operate lends them to a certain kind of photography. And for me, the iPhone is perfect for high-contrast, graphic black and white images. True, the image quality is some way short of what you’d get from a ‘proper’ camera, but when I’m using it I see […]
Maybe you wouldn’t normally think of Capture One Pro as an image-editor. It’s a superb RAW converter and general image enhancement tool, but most of the time you’d probably swap to a plug-in or an external editor for really detailed effects work – especially any that required localised adjustments. But I’ve been spending some time with Capture One […]
I am a huge fan of Google Snapseed. I’m not a huge fan of what Google has done with it, dropping the desktop Snapseed app and then the online Snapseed editing tools built into Google+ Photos. This has been replaced by a separate Google Photos option with much simpler editing tools. Thankfully, Snapseed still exists […]
The Clarity slider in Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC adds a powerful localised contrast effect that can work well on colour shots, but really comes into its own with black and white. It recaptures the some of the punchiness of old black and white films without pushing the overall contrast out of control. Here’s an […]
I’m a huge fan of Silver Efex Pro, the black and white plug-in in the Google Nik Collection. But in a spirit of fair play I want to take a proper look at a rival product, Topaz B&W Effects 2. This comes from plug-in maker Topaz Labs, which sells a suite of plug-in tools that […]
I admit that Silver Efex Pro, part of the Nik Collection, is my favourite black and white conversion plug-in, but I like to keep an open mind, and I thought it was about time I took a look at some others. I have reviewed Topaz B&W Effects in the past, but it’s been a while […]
Normally, if you want to create any kind of black and white effect with the DxO Nik Collection, you’d go straight to Silver Efex Pro. However, Color Efex Pro has some black and white effects of its own. The effects are different to Silver Efex Pro’s, so although the tools aren’t quite as sophisticated, you […]