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Thread: A Black & White Question

  1. #1
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    A Black & White Question

    This is a question about when you change things to B & W. But first, the background.

    I've just started subscribing to 'Black & White Photography'. I know Rob subscribes, but I don't know who else.

    In the latest issue (the first I've received), Australian based Peter Adams (http://www.peteradams.com/about.html), talks about shooting in B & W, and explains his reasons.

    Now, I had always taken it as perceived wisdom that you shoot in colour and convert in PP. Didn't question it. It was just the way it was done. I even argued the point in a post on here in the past.

    But why? That is the question.

    If you are one of the Mono Mob and you shoot in colour and convert in PP - Why?

    This is not something that I hope will just elicit a 'Why not?' response. But if that is indeed the answer, then so be it.

    The gist of Adams' argument, to my understanding, is that it gets you 'into the zone' of making B & W images. And that there is no disadvantage in terms of the quality of the data you're capturing.

    Discuss.

  2. #2

    Re: A Black & White Question

    I think the conventional response is that the colour info captured in a 14bit shot is more flexible in manipulating tones come the conversion. That's why you have colour sliders when you convert to BW in PS. But all that allows you to do is pick colour areas and adjust them as BW - so for example, you can move the blue slider and the sky becomes lighter/darker. If you shoot in BW presumably each pixel location gets converted into a shade of grey on the spectrum and the strength of the signal is recorded.

    I think this is worth an experiment. I'm out shooting tomorrow, I will take some test shots because I often wonder about this myself.

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    Re: A Black & White Question

    How do you shoot in B & W with a digital SLR?

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    Re: A Black & White Question

    If you set the camera to monochrome with JPEG and RAW set, the RAW comes out in colour, the JPEG gets converted to BW in camera.

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    Re: A Black & White Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    How do you shoot in B & W with a digital SLR?
    I sometimes shoot in JPEG and RAW and set the JPEG to B&W. You can then see in camera what the shot looks like in monochrome and, at least with Canon you can create your own picture style to vary the standard settings. I still use the RAW to produce the final image though.

    Peter

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    Re: A Black & White Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    How do you shoot in B & W with a digital SLR?
    Not sure I'm understanding the question. I was going to say - You press the shutter!

    However, the answers provided by others above seems to suggest that the upload of the RAW comes out in colour once you open it up, whereas, a JPEG stays in monochrome. The only time I tried was with Canon's DPP and, of course, the RAW comes up in Mono if that is what was used in the camera.

    So - maybe the question needs reworded: If you don't, why don't you set your camera to Mono?

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    Re: A Black & White Question

    Hi Donald,

    You're catching on fast

    The (slightly obscured) point I was trying to make is that you can't take a B & W photo with a Digital camera -- the camera has Red, Green, and Blue filtered photo receptors so images ALWAYS have to be converted.

    So the choice really comes down to do you let that conversion happen in the camera, do you let it happen automatically in post-processing (a-la DPP which honours picture style metadata tags), or do you control it manually in post-production (a-la Photoshop and/or other software).

    Bottom line is that there is ALWAYS the potential to get a better result doing it manually (you can always emulate the same conversion as the camera or software gives you automatically, but the automatic conversions CAN'T always do it "just the way you like it").

    I'm sure you realise this already, but just for the benefit of those who don't know - manipulating the "colours" of an image that's set to convert to Black and White WILL change the grayscale value of those colours - so a B & W (actually grayscale) conversion is far from a fixed quantity in processing (and for those who don't believe me, crank up your favourite RAW converter - set the saturation to 0, and then change the White Balance ... and watch the image changing all over the place!).

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    Re: A Black & White Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    How do you shoot in B & W with a digital SLR?
    Being from the ancient times of film photography, I feel the grain is an important character of a B&W image, which is why I have Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: A Black & White Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Steaphany View Post
    I feel the grain is an important character of a B&W image,
    Steaphany

    As I've written elsewhere in the past 24 hours, I've just got a hold of DxO Raw converter and with it the 'Film Pack'. This claims to reproduce something like 50 different film types. Haven't really got to grips with it yet, but will experiment. Interested to hear further from you and others about the notion of trying to replicate particular film, and paper, types on a digital image. For the uninitiated, like me, it feels a bit gimmicky. But I am very happy to concede that this might be a misguided and ill-informed viewpoint.

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    Re: A Black & White Question

    I think its a bit like shooting in RAW format. You want to capture everything and process later.

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    This is a question about when you change things to B & W. But first, the background.

    I've just started subscribing to 'Black & White Photography'. I know Rob subscribes, but I don't know who else.

    In the latest issue (the first I've received), Australian based Peter Adams (http://www.peteradams.com/about.html), talks about shooting in B & W, and explains his reasons.

    Now, I had always taken it as perceived wisdom that you shoot in colour and convert in PP. Didn't question it. It was just the way it was done. I even argued the point in a post on here in the past.

    But why? That is the question.

    If you are one of the Mono Mob and you shoot in colour and convert in PP - Why?

    This is not something that I hope will just elicit a 'Why not?' response. But if that is indeed the answer, then so be it.

    The gist of Adams' argument, to my understanding, is that it gets you 'into the zone' of making B & W images. And that there is no disadvantage in terms of the quality of the data you're capturing.

    Discuss.

  11. #11

    Re: A Black & White Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Steaphany View Post
    Being from the ancient times of film photography, I feel the grain is an important character of a B&W image, which is why I have Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro.
    An interesting point, Steaphany. Grain was in film due to the limitations of how film worked. But over time we got accustomed to it, and eventually got to accept it as normal. Now, we find it attractive, not due to what it actually adds to an image technically, but because we associate it with a by-gone age, perhaps?

    I'm trying Silver Efex on trial at present. It seems very good. Donald, you might want to try it - the trial is for 15 days, and it doesn't put any watermarks on the shots. Be warned though, it costs 165.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: A Black & White Question

    Quote Originally Posted by carregwen View Post
    Grain was in film due to the limitations of how film worked. But over time we got accustomed to it, and eventually got to accept it as normal. Now, we find it attractive, not due to what it actually adds to an image technically, but because we associate it with a by-gone age, perhaps?
    Interestingly, the way in which DxO markets its FilmPack is by referring to rediscovering, "the rendering of a classic film to match photos taken several years ago on film. Give texture to enlargements to avoid the overly smooth or even 'plastic' feel that is a common critic of digital photos".

    Maybe it's a gimmick .. maybe it's not. I don't have a view on that yet ... but watch this space!

    ps - 165 on Silver Efex, just after getting DxO, at the same time as the heavy hints have been dropped about the need to get bigger (e.g. Cokin Z) GNDs for the Tokina - too risky to life and limb!

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    Re: A Black & White Question

    Donald, i've tried the filmpack. What i found ,after trying it, i like the look of a select few films and didn't care for the others. Out of the 50 diff. films i only liked 4 or 5 of them.(due to the way they added contrast and hues of the image.) I just didn't think it was worth it for 5 films.

    Adding grain works well, but be careful. You can't see the grain untill after you process the image. You can Zoom in and see it, but after processing it looks different. You'll have to process a few to get a feel for it. (another little quirk in the program, but not big deal.) I find the colors (b&w hues) and contrast of the different camera presets to work very well, but you can't add grain unless you shoot with a high iso. You do alot more black and white than i do so the grain might be more useful to you.

    I think filmpack does a good job, but is overpriced for what you get.

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    Re: A Black & White Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    Interested to hear further from you and others about the notion of trying to replicate particular film, and paper, types on a digital image. For the uninitiated, like me, it feels a bit gimmicky.
    It may sound gimmicky at first, but I'll explain why I love Silver Efex Pro.

    (WARNING: I go into significant detail)

    Film B&W photography can actually be thought of as a digital process. The emulsion is composed of randomly placed and uniformly distributed silver halide crystals. Unlike a digital imaging chip, where each photosite has a distinct location, these microscopic photosensitive crystals even over lap others since the emulsion layer has an uniform thickness. Each crystal has two states, unexposed and, if it absorbs a sufficient number of photons, exposed. This is a true binary system. When immersed in the developer solution, only the exposed crystals become chemically altered to particles of metallic silver. Later, the fixer bath will chemically alter the unexposed crystals to render them inert and no longer sensitive to light. Over time, and if exposed to sufficient light, a crystal will become dark with out any chemical processing. The fixer prevents this process. This means that the beautiful gradation of white through gray to black of a B&W film image is the result of the density of these randomly placed microscopic particles of silver. The same process occurs when a film negative is printed on photographic paper.

    Regardless of any additional processing done to the print, sepia toning, selenium toning, dye application, the basics of the how a photographic image is recorded and created is just as I describe.

    Now, How could a digital photographic image be altered to reproduce this B&W film effect ? I have seen various published tips on creating a B&W film look through the addition of fine noise, but if you understand how a B&W image is created, the particles of metallic silver in a negative or print are not random noise but actually possess a density proportional to the received light. Simply adding noise will not yield an appropriate look to the image.

    The true digital B&W equivalent has to take consideration of several factors. First is spectral light sensitivity. Each pixel's red, green, and blue needs to be appropriately weighted and a corresponding luminance determined. Then the output image needs to be rendered by the creation of a grain pattern that corresponds to the luminance. When replicating various films, the spectral sensitivity and grain size need to vary based on the characteristics of the film.

    This is exactly what Silver Efex Pro does and this quote comes from the Nik Software web site:

    State-of-the-Art Grain Engine

    Silver Efex Pro features a revolutionary new grain engine that accurately recreates your digital photographs to look like a traditional black and white image. In contrast to other methods which merely overlay a grain pattern over your image, Silver Efex Pro recreates your image out of grain mimicking the traditional silver halide process.
    Here are a couple examples

    Color Original:
    A Black & White Question

    Silver Efex Pro:
    A Black & White Question

    If you look close, even at the reduced scale of this hosted image, the whites are pure grain free whites which is characteristic of an actual film photograph. There is no uniform noise overlayed onto the image as in other film approximations.

    Color Original:
    A Black & White Question

    Silver Efex Pro:
    A Black & White Question

    I'm not familiar with DxO FilmPack, I'll have to explore their technology and how they render B&W, plus I'd also be interested in methods to render an image with various color film looks. Thanks for mentioning it.
    Last edited by Steaphany; 17th June 2010 at 01:34 PM. Reason: typo

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    Re: A Black & White Question

    Isn't this a question of the purpose of the B&W treatment? If it's intended to recapture the feeling of an old B&W photo, adding the grain properly seems very important. If it's for capturing a mood, or for ensuring focus on the composition and/or geometry by minimizing or harmonizing colors that would otherwise distract, then grain would seem to be a decrease in quality.

    Cheers,
    Rick

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    Re: A Black & White Question

    I find it a bit ironic that during my darkroom days, I was always stiving to get as little "grain" in my photographs as possible so the details would come out, unless it was for an affect and now we have the capability to add grain back in to make it look like we are shooting with film.

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