Tuesday, 15 October 2013

More Than 50 Shades of Grey

More Than Just 50 Shades of Grey
by Bill

Black and White Photography
Black-and-white, often abbreviated B/W or B&W, is a term referring to a number of monochrome forms in visual arts.
Black-and-white images are not just black and white. They combine black and white and a lot of of shades of gray. Many prints, especially those produced earlier in the development of photography, were in sepia (mainly for archival stability), which yielded richer, more subtle shading than reproductions in plain black-and-white.

One of the benefits of digital photography that we can really appreciate is the ease with which I can convert images to black and white. It was much harder back when I first became interested in photography. Colour printing in your own home was almost impossible, so I hired a friend’s disused storeroom and converted it into a darkroom.

Now, black and white is as accessible as switching to your camera’s monochrome mode or using post processing software to convert a colour image to black and white. Some people still prefer chemical processes, but for the rest of us it means no more darkrooms and no more waiting to process film and make prints. The process is instant. That has opened up black and white photography to many more photographers, which can only be a good thing.

How to master black and white photography:
1 - Black and white photography: See in tones

1 - Black and white photography: See in tones
Our eyes see in colour but to be successful in black and white photography it’s important to train them to see the world as tones of grey. It’s an acquired skill. It takes time to learn how scenes that you are accustomed to viewing in colour, translate into black and white. 

A red flower in a green field may look great in colour, but when converted to mono, if those colours reproduce as the same shade of grey the result will be a very dull picture.

It takes time to develop an eye for mono. Some photographers make use of a  photographic grey card to compare shades of objects they encounter. They look if a colour is lighter or darker than the grey card?

The best black and white photography exploits the differences in tone between elements in a scene, which can either be photographed ‘straight’ or manipulated either by using on-camera filters, or Photoshop. Great black and white photos also make good use of shapes, textures, lines and lighting, to compensate for the loss of colour.

2 - Black and white photography: Atmosphere

Fog, mist and haze all have the potential to lower subject contrast and create a soft, romantic feel to an image.

When it’s misty or foggy out, the world is almost transformed into a naturally monochrome wilderness populated with enchanting tones and an eerie stillness. Bearing this in mind, why not get out and about next time a mist rolls in off the sea or a fog settles for the evening?
Remember that objects and features closer to the lens will tend to show heavier tones than elements that are further away, so bear this in mind when composing your shot.

3 – Monochrome mode helps you take better B&W portraits

Apparently models love to see their photos on the camera’s LCD screen during a shoot. If you want to work in black and white, switching to monochrome mode and showing your model the previews in black and white helps them get an idea of how the processed images will come out. If your model gets excited about the results he or she will work harder to create good images.

The example here shows the difference between colour and monochrome Picture Styles (contrast increased in monochrome mode). Let’s look at some monochrome examples.

The example here shows the difference between colour and monochrome Picture Styles (contrast increased in monochrome mode). Let’s look at some monochrome examples.

4 – Monochrome mode – what you need to know

Every manufacturer approaches this differently, so check your manual, but the basic idea is the same.

These are the settings you are looking for, by manufacturer:

Canon: Picture Style

Nikon: Picture Control

Sony: Creative Style
Pentax: Custom Image

Olympus: Picture Mode
Sigma: Colour Mode

Fujifilm: Film Simulation

Look for the setting labelled Monochrome (or something similar).

Once selected, you should also be able to customise it. My Canon EOS cameras have four parameters you can adjust in Monochrome mode:

Ignore this if you’re shooting in Raw, as you can adjust sharpness when processing the image. If you’re using JPEG, be careful not to oversharpen – you can increase sharpness in Photoshop if you need to.

The biggest concern many photographers have about using monochrome mode is that the photos often tend to look flat and consequently somewhat boring and uninspiring. That’s because the camera manufacturer would prefer to give you a flat black and white image by default, in order to retain highlight and shadow detail. The assumption is that you will adjust contrast in Photoshop if you need to.

However, increasing contrast in-camera gives you a better preview that can make it much easier to visualise how the scene converts to black and white. Be careful if you’re shooting JPEG, as you won’t be able to pull back any lost shadow or highlight detail in Photoshop.
But if you’re using Raw, you can set the contrast to whatever you want.
One thing to watch out for in Raw: the histogram and highlight alert are generated from the preview you see on the screen. If you increase contrast, your camera may tell you that the highlights are clipped, when the detail is actually there in the Raw file. The more you increase the contrast, the more likely this is to happen.

Filter effect
Before digital, black and white photographers would use coloured filters to alter the tones of their black and white images. Coloured filters make colours corresponding to the colour of the filter lighter, and the opposite colour on the colour wheel go darker.

For example a red filter makes red colours go lighter and blue ones (such as the sky) go darker.

1.    This is how you could use the filters:
2.    Red: Makes blue skies go really dark. Very dramatic, especially if you increase contrast too.
3.    Orange: Makes blue skies go dark, but not as dark as the red filter.
4.    Yellow: Darkens blue skies a little. Also lightens skin tones, and can be good for portraits.
5.    Green: Makes anything green lighter. Often used to lift photos containing a lot of things that are green, such as grass or vegetation.

Toning effect
On an EOS camera, the toning effects are a bit too strong to be effective. Regardless of whether you are using JPEG or Raw you can tone your photos much more efficiently in post-processing anyway. It’s probably best to leave this setting alone.

Raw vs. JPEG
Remember, if you use monochrome mode with JPEG files you will get what you see on the LCD screen – black and white images with whatever sharpening, contrast and filter effect settings you used. That may suit some photographers but I really suggest that you use Raw. That way you have a full colour image that you can process any way you like, including converting to black and white with software that gives a much better result than your camera possibly could.

5 – Post Processing Software

Whether you shoot in RAW or JPEG, colour or in-camera B&W, you’ll get best results by tweaking or manipulating your images with some sort of software. Most people have some sort of program that can do that on their computer already.
Il use Silver Efex Pro by Nik Software, owned now by Google. Here is what it can do:
Unique algorithms
Advancements in black and white controls help you achieve great results quickly. Take advantage of tools like Dynamic Brightness, Soft Contrast, Amplify Whites, Amplify Blacks, and the advanced Grain Engine.
All-in-one toolset
Emulate nearly 20 popular film types, add finishing adjustments like toners and borders, and tune your image to produce superior black-and-white results. Silver Efex Pro gives you control over the entire process.
More freedom to edit
Try different looks, compare different edited states of your image, and undo adjustments at any time -- all thanks to Silver Efex Pro’s built-in History Browser.

Check out NIK software here NIK SOFTWARE

Here are some fabulous Black and White photographers, we recomment you check out: