Preset Picks: This time, Alien Skin’s Border – Negative (Kodalith) preset goes under the microscope. Using just three tools it transforms regular images into super-strong graphic black and white.
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.
Well, I actually think you can. I like taking pictures with my iPhone. It’s partly a practical thing, as it’s the camera I always have with me. More than that, though, it makes me see things differently. I see compositions, shapes, light and shadow in a way that I might not when looking through a […]
DxO PhotoLab can create superb black and white imagery, both in terms of image quality and in creative control, but you need to get the DxO FilmPack 5 Elite add-on to do it. This does make things more expensive, and it does feel a bit like you’re paying for some things that other programs offer […]
With just a couple of exceptions, all digital cameras capture in colour, so if you want black and white you can either use the camera’s monochrome mode, which will simply convert the image in-camera, or you can carry out the conversion on a computer. But which conversion method works best?
One of the reasons I rate image effects programs so highly compared to traditional image editors is the way they open your eyes to effects you wouldn’t have thought of. Like applying the Lith Border effect in Alien Skin Exposure X3 to this early morning shot of a country church. There’s already a lot of […]
It does seem a bit perverse, adding colour to a black and white image which used to be colour in the first place, but hand-coloured (or digitally-coloured) black and white has a very particular ‘look’ that colour images just don’t have. So this image (below) is one I originally shot in colour but then reworked […]
If you want to add a dark and brooding sky to your black and white photos then a graduated filter is the obvious way to do it. As long as the sky still has a full range of tones, i.e. it’s not burned out to a solid white anywhere, you can practically do what you […]
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 […]
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 […]