Black and White Photography.

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Dave Spencer, 8 Oct 2007.

  1. Dave Spencer

    Dave Spencer Member

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    Does anybody out there use B + W photography much? Personally, apart from the usual holiday snaps and tank shots, I prefer it 99% of the time.

    Of course, the digital age and Photoshop mean that it is possible to shoot in colour and convert it to B + W.

    Sun017ps2sscrop.jpg

    Sun017sscrop.jpg

    Dave.
     

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  2. Dan Crawford

    Dan Crawford Founder Staff Member

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    I'm no photographer but i'm a bit of a photoshop pro so i shoot everything in colour and then convert to black and white.
    "you can take the colour out of a photo but you can't put it back in" i always say. Better to have the option of both i recon.
    Dan
     
  3. Dave Spencer

    Dave Spencer Member

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    A Photoshop pro Dan? That is good to know, seeing as I am a complete beginner.

    I am off to Poland next month, with the opportunity of visiting Auschwitz, so I can`t see the pictures from there working best in anything other than black and white. My camera takes them in colour and I convert the best ones to black and white using the channel mixer in Photoshop 7.

    I`m thinking it might be better to shoot in RAW. That way, it still records the image in clour, but the view finder shows the black and white image. Anybody got ant thoughts or advice on this?

    Dave.
     
  4. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    Hey Dave,
    It doesn't really matter whether you shoot in RAW or JPG/TIF or whatever and it doesnt matter whether the viewfinder shows color or monochrome. You have learn to see the image in your mind's eye in B&W first. That way you'll understand the possibilities of a scene before you even take the shot. B&W is all about tonality and texture. I don't even remember what this scene looked like in color...

    [​IMG]
     
  5. Dave Spencer

    Dave Spencer Member

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    Location:
    N. Wales
    Hi ceg4048,

    It has been a loooong time since I did any serious photography in B + W, and having the viewfinder give me an idea of what I am doing should be a help for the short term until I get my eye in, so to speak.

    My preference is to spend time behind the camera, rather than on Photoshop, so I want to get as much right with the click of a shutter and minimise post processing. I intend to get some filters as well, but man they are expensive.

    RAW will hopefully make a difference, but probably not to my untrained eye just yet.

    The picture of the hut looks great. Is it an infrared image?

    Dave.
     
  6. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    Leamington Spa, UK.
    Looks like a negative image/inverted colour image almost :)
     
  7. Graeme Edwards

    Graeme Edwards Founder Staff Member

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Wirral/Chester Cheshire.
    I tend to do it when im in the mood. And when i do, i use the camaras B+W sttings. Some times i take a colour photo and convert, to see what that brings.
    Most of the editing i do is very basic, generaly, i just convert to B+W and increase the contrast and thats it.

    These are my latest B+W pics. The first is in the Ogwyn Vally, the other is at Loggerhead.

    [​IMG][/

    [​IMG][/
     
  8. Dave Spencer

    Dave Spencer Member

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    1,389
    Location:
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    It`s about time I got my camera out at Loggerheads, instead of doing the usual walking around hand in hand soppy crap. :lol:

    Graeme, have you ever tried using the unsharp mask? Provided you use it in moderation, it can really sharpen images up a treat. I also like to try a little dodging and burning, but haven`t really got the hang of it yet.

    Dave
     
  9. Graeme Edwards

    Graeme Edwards Founder Staff Member

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    What ya trying to say Dave, that ive got a wobbly hand lol :lol:
    Pin sharp mate, pin sharp.

    Dodge and burn is poo, unless your realy good, it just looks odd.

    We should have a photo challange!!!
     
  10. Dave Spencer

    Dave Spencer Member

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    1,389
    Location:
    N. Wales
    I wasn`t questioning your focussing, or should I say Canon autofocus. :lol:

    In my image of the tree, the outermost leaves are just brought in to a sharper focus. Like I say, subtlety is the key, as it can easily be overdone.

    My renewal of interest of this hobby is in its infancy, so I don`t have much of a portfolio to take up your challenge, but once I have been to Poland I`ll be kicking ass to Snowdonia and back!

    It would be nice to see some of your B + W pics, Graeme, plus anybody else with some they would like to show off.

    Dave.
     
  11. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
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    Nah, just another Photoshop channel mixer trick. The trick works more or less cleanly though becaues I selected a subject whose real life colors allowed me to transition them to the grey tones and clean contrast I was after. That's why I was trying to get across that having a monochrome viewfinder actually doesn't do you any favors. You have to translate the colors to grey yourself by understanding why B&W film behaves the way it does and to understand what it is that you are trying to simulate in Photoshop.

    Most B&W films are daylight/outdoor film so they have sensitivity biased towards blue light. Blue therefore tends to "washout" easily. If you take a picture of an outdoor scene the sky usually looks a flat, light grey. Very boring, unless you like light grey skies. Red and yellow on the other hand are at the opposite end and B&W film has lower sensitivity to these wavelengths. If you take a picture of an outdorr scene with a red building the sky will be a light grey and the building will be a relatively dark grey. Green is rendered a neutral grey on B&W film. In fact, in the old days, you could calibrate your light meter by pointing it at a lawn because that was considered neutral. In Graeme's forest shot, you can see that there is not a lot of variety in the grey tones of the foliage. You don't see a lot of contrast until you get to the darker brown (which has red) wood. You can see that the sky is light grey. A simple yellow filter (if you were using a film camera) or a reduction of luminance in the blue channel on Photoshop channel mixer would give this scene better contrast and mood (blue and yellow are opposites).

    Paradoxically, in order to take better B&W shots, or at least to understand what shots work better in B&W you must understand color! This is why I think a monochrome viewfinder is a bad idea. It keeps you from learning the effects of colors and how they translate. It would be better to go out and set shots up with various colors in mind and to be concious of the colors. Try to predict how their relative greys will turn out and check the results. You needn't do complex scenes. Shoot simple scenes, with simple colors and simple textures. I don't even think you need to leave your house. If you do enough of these excercises I'm certain you'll take better pictures and will understand more by the time you get to Poland. As I said, in B&W tonality and texture are kings. You can be forgiven a lot in a shot if you have creamy tones, proper contrast and visible textures.

    Cheers,
     
  12. oldwhitewood

    oldwhitewood Member

    Messages:
    356
    Fascinating stuff, I would love to improve my black and white photography and I love the infra red effects you can get too. I did a course in it years ago at uni, where you had to take the shots then develop your own film and then use the darkroom to print the shots. I have never had so much fun, being totally emmersed in darkness trying to crack open a can of film and wind it round the spindle, brilliant. I miss that stuff with digital it's so easy for me to import stuff into iPhoto, convert it to B&W and it's done. I would love to understand more about the process though, as some of my black and white stuff looks ok, the other stuff just looks flat and dull.

    Where do you guys stand on filters? Am I right in saying there is a specific filter one should use for B&W.
     
  13. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    Location:
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    Hi,oldwhitewood,
    Well, I haven't done any tests to verify but if you're shooting digital or color film to be scanned later on you shouldn't need to use filters because photoshop does the filter calculations when you convert to B&W. You can then play with channel mixer to get either normal or infrared effects like I did with the shot I posted. Of course if you're shooting B&W film then yes, filters will make all the difference either to subdue something or to enhance it. I don't know iPhoto very well but it must have similar controls.


    You may find it interesting to note that digital cameras actually capture their native RAW data in B&W. There are actually tiny red, green and blue filters placed over the light sensors to tag each pixel with color information. The camera actually has to calculate the color interpretation using the Red, Green and Blue data from the filters. All that happens in your photo software when you convert is that the color data from the filters is deleted. In a way then you are actually looking at the original image when you "convert" to monochrome!

    Cheers,
     
  14. Dave Spencer

    Dave Spencer Member

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    1,389
    Location:
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    I was going to buy a red filter for my Nikon lens to bring out the clouds and sky more. My preference is to get as much right with the camera in my hand, rather than a mouse, but Photoshop will probably save me £40 in this respect.You could also buy just a skylight filter as a means of protection.

    My reservations are putting a filter in front of some of the best lenses available, and the detrimental effect they may have on the image. Not that I am good enough to notice. :lol:

    Dave.
     
  15. oldwhitewood

    oldwhitewood Member

    Messages:
    356
    They're interesting points guys. Certainly. Here are some of my black and whites, what am I doing wrong?

    1408724451_761e03d627_o.jpg

    1449025037_86a3ead177_o.jpg

    1450209498_bc3fa97ae4_o.jpg
     
  16. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    OOH I like the one in the middle one with the rocks. You can almost feel your hands bruise as you scrape them against the rocks. I grabbed these and played with them some. iPhoto is OK but really Photoshop is the standard tool. There is an Apple version but it might be expensive.

    I squeezed a wee bit more contrast with channel mixer. The white highlights are blown out though.
    [​IMG]

    I left the sepia tone in this one but used highlight/shadows to recover the exposure of the trunks. There is some kind of distortion running down the left side though.
    [​IMG]

    This one was difficult compositionally because of that pole in the middle and the underexposed building. It was tough to bring out the "OUT" sign and yet keep drama in the sky
    [​IMG]

    I still want to check out using the filters though. Polarizers may still have a use as may graduated filter; they would help to prevent blowing out the sky while underexposing the rest of the image.

    Dave, Hoya and Nikon filters are very good and you can't really tell the difference. What you can gain from them, at least on film, outweighs any added distortion.

    Cheers,
     
  17. oldwhitewood

    oldwhitewood Member

    Messages:
    356
    Wow they look really good thanks. I have photoshop elements for my Mac which I guess I could do similar things with. I will have a look.

    I did a similar stone wall shot for my photography course years ago, it was from a roll of film taken with my trusty olympus om10. They seem to come out quite well in b&w, rocks in general do I guess.

    Thanks for your comments.
     
  18. Matt Holbrook-Bull

    Matt Holbrook-Bull Founder

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  19. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

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    Wow Matt, are those yours? I love the Selenium toned castle wall. Great composition. That's got to translate to great aquascaping.

    Cheers,
     
  20. Matt Holbrook-Bull

    Matt Holbrook-Bull Founder

    Messages:
    963
    Location:
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    yep :) every photo on that whole flickr ID is mine :) i specialise in flora macros and other nature shots really, but I do love old buildings too!

    thanks for the wow! :)
     

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