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Thread: Black & White Photography

  1. #1
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Black & White Photography

    1. What exactly makes a great B&W photo? I think a high contrast photo, with nice light and a good tonal range, but really it is a guessing game (for me). My current strategy is to choose a photo I think will look good in B&W, try it out, and instinct as to whether it looks good or is a flop in B&W.

    2. For B&W photography is it better to shoot in B&W, or shoot in colour and then convert to B&W?

    Thank you.

  2. #2
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Black & White Photography

    Christina

    For me, the 4 'golden' words are - Line, Shape, Tone & Texture. Your subject needs to be strong in these elements for you to be looking, in my opinion, at a good B & W.

    Re shooting. Do you shoot in RAW? If so, then you are not shooting in either colour or B & W. You're shooting and you are capture all the data, including the colour information. You then decide, during post-processing whether you're keeping the colour information (and making a colour image) or losing it (to make a B & W). It's only if your shooting in JPEG that you make the decision at the time whether to capture the image as a colour or B & W photograph.

    But that latter point is a very different from making the decision, before you press the shutter, whether the final image is going to be a colour image or a B & W. As I've written on here before. I shoot for B & W. But I shoot in RAW and, therefore still capture all the colour information. But I know I'll be making a B & W image from that RAW file.

    Does any of that help?

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    Re: Black & White Photography

    And they don't all have to be high contrast. For some most excellent demonstrations of that, take a look at some of Donald's posts of the Tay Bridge images.

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    Re: Black & White Photography

    Hi Donald,
    Thank you so much... You summed it up perfectly and simply! Now I know what to look for, and texture never came to mind!

    Yes, I shoot in raw and jpeg, and the next time I try a B&W photo, I will try editing from raw.

    It's also very helpful to know the thought process behind it.

    I've seen your Tay Bridge shots and they are gorgeous!

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Black & White Photography

    My decision to go colour or B&W is often something I will only decided on when I am in PP, even if I am planning a colour or B&W shot at the time.

    If I have an image, where I like the overall composition, but it is somehow too busy and all the colours are distracting, I will throw on a B&W adjustment layer to see if this step simplifies the image enough to improve the overall effect. Donald puts it quite well; Line, Shape, Tone & Texture.

    Sometimes I find that a "period" piece (old house or barn) will look better in B&W (perhaps monochrome is a better way of describing it, as I will sometimes either go towards a warm, off-white background or an overall sepia look rather than pure black and white). Sometimes a scene will look more compelling if it takes on that B&W photojournalistic appearance or the 60's and 70's.

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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Black & White Photography

    Thank you. Very helpful..

    I have a highly textured, pelican somewhere, that fits the bill, and I will try it out.

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    Re: Black & White Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Christina S View Post
    I have a highly textured, pelican somewhere, that fits the bill
    Please, please tell us that your pun is intended.

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    Re: Black & White Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    Line, Shape, Tone & Texture.
    Maybe we should adopt the acronym, SLiTT, or perhaps, LiSTT.

    Do you shoot in RAW? If so, then you are not shooting in either colour or B & W.
    I recently saw information about a very expensive camera with sensor sites that record only luminosity, not RGB data. I take it that the sensor that has no RGB sites is truly a black-and-white camera and that all black-and-white imgages converted from data captured on RGB sensor sites are "only" conversions. I would appreciate anyone with the technical understanding to explain in easy-to-understand lay terms the differences between the two technologies and the differences, if any, between the results.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 24th July 2012 at 12:12 AM.

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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Black & White Photography

    Well actually...

    The beak
    Black & White Photography

    Black & White Photography

    (looks better in colour)

    The rumpled guy who is not looking very well.

    The beak and the rumpled guy look better in colour... This guy looks ok in B&W, and better in Sepia I think...


    Black & White Photography

    Black & White Photography

    Black & White Photography
    Last edited by Brownbear; 23rd July 2012 at 10:52 PM.

  10. #10
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Black & White Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buckley View Post
    I recently saw information about a very expensive camera with sensor sites that recorded only luminosity, not RGB data.
    Mike

    I think your referring to the new :Leica M.

    It's a case of - If you need to ask the price, you can't afford it!

  11. #11

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    Re: Black & White Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    If you need to ask the price, you can't afford it!
    I definitely need to ask.

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Black & White Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Christina S View Post
    What exactly makes a great B&W photo?
    What I find missing from many Digital B&W Images is the full tonal range.
    That is not to say that a Full Tonal Range is an absolute for EVERY image.

    ***

    Quote Originally Posted by Christina S View Post
    For B&W photography is it better to shoot in B&W, or shoot in colour and then convert to B&W?
    Assuming you are limiting the question to Digital Media - it is better to shoot in raw and convert to Black and White in Post Production.
    This relates to my first point.
    It is my experience that the LACK of a full tonal range is usually rooted in a poor understanding of B&W conversion and this is predicated by the user not understanding the (core) relationship between how and why we used Contrast Filters when shooting B&W with Film and the Digital conversation process which uses attenuation or amplification of the six colour tones.
    Although there are many excellent plug-ins available for B&W Conversion and B&W Post Production, it occurs to me that a trained eye can often differentiate an Hand Made Wet Print from a Black and White Negative: in this regard the full response to your question requires an answer including: ‘perhaps best to shoot with B&W film’.

    WW

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    Re: Black & White Photography

    William,

    You might be interested in Carolyn Guild's images at http://carolynguild.com/Carolyn_Guil...otography.html. Museum gallery curators have been astounded to realize that her prints are made from digital captures. That's just one reason that her work is owned by museums.

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Black & White Photography

    Mike,
    Thank you for the link.
    Very impressive,
    WW

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    Re: Black & White Photography

    Christina, I hope you don't mind me chiming in here.

    But I am a huge fan of B&W portraiture.

    Especially babies, head & shoulders and tight shots, mothers-to-be, and well, most anything if they are well conceived. Plus if you are a street shooter a B&W gritty kind of look is pretty cool. Have a look at Jiro's street stuff. It sings in B&W.

    Low key is another example (and this is not going to necessarily include a full tonal range).

    I think for these and the above mentioned it is a classic and timeless look.

    And pay special attention to whatever Donald tells us about this.

    Just a theory!

  16. #16

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    Re: Black & White Photography

    Terry's comment about street photography reminds me that one reason to use black-and-white is to eliminate the colors that would otherwise distract the viewer from the story being told.

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