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Thread: Black & White

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    Karen L's Avatar
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    Black & White

    I've been told different things about shooting in B&W. Some say if you want a b&w photo, shoot in b&w while others say always shoot in color and convert to b&w in an editing program. Any thoughts on this and why do it one way vs. the other?

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Black & White

    Hello Karen and welcome to CiC. I hope this is the first of many posts you'll make as a member of the forum. And one of the best ways of using the forum for learning is to ask questions. So, well done.

    As to your question - If you shoot in RAW, this is isn't an issue. And I think all of us one here would say that if you have camera that shoots RAW files, then use that.

    If you do shoot in RAW then once you press the shutter, you are capturing all the data, including the colour information. In post-processing you can then discard that in the process of converting to B & W. There are lots of different ways of converting to B & W and if that's the route you want to go, then you could post up additional questions about that on here.

    If your camera only shoots JPEG and it gives you the choice of setting to shoot colour or monochrome, then you have a choice to make. You can tell it to shoot in Monochrome and the camera will strip out the colour data and give you a monochrome image. But, in that case you're getting what the camera gives you. You are not involved in the conversion process.

    On the other hand you can still convert a JPEG on your computer in post processing . However, the downside of that is that as your do further work on a JPEG in post-processing you start to affect the quality of the image. It starts to deteriorate. That doesn't happen if your working on a RAW file.

    Does that help your understanding?

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    Karen L's Avatar
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    Re: Black & White

    Thanks Donald. I usually shoot JPEG + RAW. I've only shot in B&W once and did notice that my JPEGs were B&W and RAW were color so didn't understand the b&w vs color argument (didn't know if there were technical reasons why one was better than the other). So, if the RAW file captures the same data whether its B&W or color, then it sounds to me that it may just be a matter of personal preference. I now shoot only in color and do any converting post-processing.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Black & White

    Karen

    The best way to think about it is that with RAW you're not shooting in either colour of B & W. It doesn't matter what settings you put into the camera - if you shoot RAW then you capture all the data.

    So, rather than shooting in colour or B & W, which is what you would do if you shot JPEG, all you are doing when you shoot RAW is shooting to capture the data. You then decide what you want to do with data in post-processing. Some of it you keep. Some of it you don't. It's a different way of thinking about what it is you are doing when you press the shutter. It just needs us to sort-of shift the way we think about what is we're doing.

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    Karen L's Avatar
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    Re: Black & White

    Thank you for the explanation Donald. I get it.

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    Re: Black & White

    The next question, Karen, is which of several methods do you use to convert to B&W?

    Some of the auto conversion methods found in cheap software isn't really any better than simply shooting B&W because it just does the same thing.

    But which of the better methods produces the best result . . .

    People have different opinions so I would simply say try to process the same colour image in different ways and see what works best for you.

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    Karen L's Avatar
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    Re: Black & White

    Hi Geoff. I use CS4 for all post-processing and am very happy with the results. I don't do any "auto" editing, but prefer to tweak the image to get a final result that I am happy with. Much thanks to you and Donald for your help.

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Black & White

    Quote Originally Posted by Karen L View Post
    I've been told different things about shooting in B&W. Some say if you want a b&w photo, shoot in b&w while others say always shoot in color and convert to b&w in an editing program. Any thoughts on this and why do it one way vs. the other?
    As already advised when using the Digital Medium and to attain maximum leverage over the process: shoot raw and PP in the Digital Darkroom.

    However, if one only has a Digital Camera and wants to better understand the processes of Black and White Photography, then there is very particular and very useful application for shooting monochrome JPEG.
    Whilst the monochrome does not exactly emulate B&W film for learning most principles, it is close enough.
    The value of instant review of the image, (rather than waiting for development of film) enhances the learning process enormously and is great fun too.

    Three main elements of B&W photography which can be learnt are:
    Better lighting principles
    Better choice of garment and props (especially for Portraiture)
    Better understanding of the use of contrast filters (for application in PP)

    The formal Photography Courses in which I am involved still have at least a six week practical element covering: B&W Film; Film Development and Darkroom, but shooting mono JPEG with instant review as outlined above has been an indispensable technique for weekend seminars and workshops and the like and it can be easily applied as a self improvement method.

    WW

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    Re: Black & White

    Hi Karen If you use CS4 and like tweaking then Silver Efex Pro is a plugin that is absolutely wonderful for B&W conversion. There is a 15 day trial available here http://www.niksoftware.com/silverefexpro/usa/entry.php but be warned if you use it you will want it!

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    Re: Black & White

    Hi Karen

    Hope I don't confuse you with this but a digital camera is fundamentally a colour device as the sensor has a mosaic colour filter across the front of it. This means that any one pixel has a value recorded according to the colour of the filter in front of it ie it responds to either red blue or green only. The other colour values for an individual pixel are determined by a so-called de-mosaicing process which estimates values from surrounding pixels.

    This means that to produce a true colour or B&W jpeg in the camera, processing must be done in camera. If you shoot RAW, then the processing is done out of the camera and you have more control as Donald has indicated clearly above.

    Dave

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    Karen L's Avatar
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    Re: Black & White

    Thanks for the info Nelly. I'll have to give it a try.

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    Karen L's Avatar
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    Re: Black & White

    Dave, thanks for the info and you didn't confuse me...I get it now. Prior to asking my question, I was given some information that, I now know, wasn't entirely correct. Thanks to the kind and knowledgeable people here I understand.

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    Karen L's Avatar
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    Re: Black & White

    Thank you William. Sounds like really good advice. I will have to try your recommendations as I have only recently become interested in b&w and want to learn as much as possible.

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    Re: Black & White

    Hi Karen, and welcome to the forums. I've read everyone else's repies above andf I think they've all pretty much answered your question!

    The only thing I would add is this... When I shoot JPEG + RAW, which I do, the only reason I add the JPEG is so that I can view pictures easier before I decide whether to bin them or process them. The 'keepers' are always processed from the RAW file.

    Now I know that Donald does the following, and he does so to help him in the field. Donald sets his camera to monochrome so that he can get a better feel for how the final image is going to look when he views it on the back of his camera. He does this because 99.9% of the images he produces are B&W, he has a passion for B&W photography - some would say he actually sees everything in B&W! The point I am trying to make is that it may help you to set the camera to monochrome if you are planning on producing some B&W shots - the camera will produce B&W JPEGs for you to view on the back of the camera and in Windows, but provided you are also capturing the images in RAW format then, as others have already pointed out, you are capturing ALL the data - colour and all. And you have the choice of producing B&W or colour images. You may decide that a particular image looks better in colour, even though you shhot it with the intention of producing a monochrome image! Essentially you can have your cake and eat it!

    Look forward to seeing some of your images here very soon!

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    Karen L's Avatar
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    Re: Black & White

    Hi Tommy. Thanks for the advice. I too shoot JPEG + RAW for the same reasons as you. After reading everyone's advice, I think I will spend some time shooting in B&W. Thank you to everyone who took the time to reply.

  16. #16
    RockNGoalStar's Avatar
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    Re: Black & White

    No probs Karen. The reason I chose Donald as an example is because he produces STUNNING B&W images. You will get to see them if you hang around here. You should certainly look through his posts or at his website to see some of them.

    Not sure yet what your style is, but looking forward to seeing some images from you very soon! Don't be afraid to post them!

    Over and out!

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Black & White

    Quote Originally Posted by RockNGoalStar View Post
    Now I know that Donald does the following, and he does so to help him in the field. Donald sets his camera to monochrome so that he can get a better feel for how the final image is going to look when he views it on the back of his camera.
    And that, in turn, was a 'trick' I learned from reading an interview with an Australian photographer (whose name, much to my embarrassment, I now cannot remember). And just to show how we all do learn, when I read it I didn't understand it, because I thought you either shot in colour or B & W. The concept of a RAW not being thought about as either in colour or B & W was a still above my head. So, Karen, if I can learn it, anyone can!

    ps - Thanks for the plug, Tommy.
    Last edited by Donald; 22nd February 2012 at 04:28 PM.

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    Re: Black & White

    I just want to add that if one shoots in b&w, and views the image on the camera LCD, remember that is the manufacturer's engineer applying his engineering. It is an approximation of what you will be able to "carve" out of the Raw data actually stored upon image capture.
    Also, and I may have missed anothers response, sorry if I am repeating another. Color has a lot to do with b&w images. Once you spend more time processing the image for b&w you will learn the nuance of how to tweak the image using color filters, whether the filters are glass and used in the process of shooting, or are filters applied with the post processing.

    Remember there is not a lot to really learn about photography. One may even be able to master it during one's lifetime...

  19. #19
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Black & White

    Quote Originally Posted by PBelarge View Post
    Color has a lot to do with b&w images. Once you spend more time processing the image for b&w you will learn the nuance of how to tweak the image using color filters, whether the filters are glass and used in the process of shooting, or are filters applied with the post processing.
    I totally agree with that. That's why, when I'm shooting to make a B & W image, I use a grey card so that I can correct colour balance in the RAW file during processing, prior to the conversion work being done.. I very much believe that B & W conversion should start from the right place so far as colour balance is concerned.

  20. #20
    PBelarge's Avatar
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    Re: Black & White

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    I totally agree with that. That's why, when I'm shooting to make a B & W image, I use a grey card so that I can correct colour balance in the RAW file during processing, prior to the conversion work being done.. I very much believe that B & W conversion should start from the right place so far as colour balance is concerned.
    Donald
    When you use your grey card, I am curious how you use it. I have the Xrite card and have not used it yet for landscape images.
    Thanks

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