Black & White Photography, what is the best way to do it? In camera, or using a post processing editor? Today we are looking at this topic. This is the Liam Photography Podcast, I’m your host Liam and this is Episode 235 for Thursday, March 24th, 2022.
Different people will give different answers to this question, and there is no “right” answer, but anytime you can do things in camera, it is considered the “ideal” way to do it. If, like me your are shooting Fujifilm X or GFX Series cameras, this can be done either totally in camera by shooting in JPEG and choosing either the ACROS or MONOCHROME film simulations and it is quick and easy. However, if you are shooting Fujifilm and would like more control then you can shoot RAW and then choose which simulation you like better for a given shot later when post processing in either Lightroom or CaptureOne Pro.
Other camera brands can make B&W images but there is a catch, you have to shoot in JPEG only, because if you shoot RAW, the images will appear B&W when viewing them in the camera but once downloaded to your computer they will revert back to full color because RAW format records ALL details and pixels. I’ve had students ask, “What if I don’t have or cannot afford editing software?” Well, first of all, if you are a photography student, you should have editing software as part of your degree program.
If you are doing photography as a hobbyist or amateur, you can afford Lightroom and Photoshop under the Adobe CC program for photographers, which gives you both programs for a $10 monthly subscription.
Shooting B&W in camera will give you beautiful B&W images but since you are shooting JPEG, ALL extra data for your image will be discarded and gone forever, you cannot get that back. I, and most professional photographers will tell you it’s best to ALWAYS shoot in RAW for the very best image quality and then convert them to B&W. This gives you the most creativity and best detail in your final image. Editing to B&W in say Lightroom, there are a couple ways you can do it. You can use the Black & White option under the development module, or I prefer to use the Saturation tool and de-saturate the colors from the image, then tweak the contrast to create a more dramatic effect. You could also opt to download and install a Lightroom Preset that is made for B&W whether it’s a free one or a paid one.
For your viewing pleasure I am including seven of my black & white images. The first one is an environmental portrait of a man named Mike who owns a small diner in downtown Atlanta just down the street from the Centennial Towers where I used to work for PEER1. I decided to make the image in B&W as I felt the bright colors of the fountain soda machine behind him was too distracting from the subject.
The second image I have is of a old U.S. Army Duce N’ Half truck I shot at the Southeast Railway Museum in Duluth, GA. I like this image in B&W because I love the contrast and how the trees in the background “pop”.
My third image is of a man in downtown Atlanta playing his trumpet as he tips his hat at people passing by. For street photography I have always preferred B&W as I feel it makes the images look better and more documentary style.
Fourth is a young boy peering in through the glass door at the Jersey Mike’s Subs in Monroe, GA. He was there for lunch with his grandmother and to me the B&W just made it more dramatic.
The fifth image is a metal padlock on one of the cabins at the New Echota Historical site in Calhoun, GA. I love visiting historic sites and to me they should generally always be captured in B&W, but maybe it’s because I am a big Civil War/WWII buff and most of those images are in B&W anyway.
The sixth image is one of a co-worker from my time at PEER1 in Atlanta. Scott Billups is a great guy and I really enjoyed working with him. I decided on B&W for this one as again I prefer B&W for both street photography and environmental portraits as the subject is paramount.
The last one I have here is of a piece of farm machinery sitting in a field down the road from my home. It’s just waiting for the new crop season to start and I shot this one with my Fujifilm X-T4 with the XF16-80mm lens and I used Fujifilm’s ACROS film simulation.
One of my favorite photographers since I was a young child was Ansel Adams. For many, when thinking about or viewing black and white nature photography, Ansel Adams immediately comes to mind. Beginning in the early 1920’s and spanning a career of the next 40+ years, Adams photographed many of the natural areas that millions of us enjoy each year and that the majority of us as landscape photographers deeply appreciate including the Sierra Nevada, the Desert Southwest and many of our National Parks.
In direct defiance of the Pictorialism movement of the mid-1920’s, Ansel began photographing landscapes in a realistic way, using small apertures for sharp focus and greater depth of field, heightened contrast and precise exposure. This type of photography had a direct influence on nature photography today. In 1941, the National Park service commissioned Adams to photograph the parks. Ansel was also a founding member of the Group F/64. Group f/64 or f.64 was a group founded by seven 20th-century San Francisco Bay Area photographers who shared a common photographic style characterized by sharply focused and carefully framed images seen through a particularly Western (U.S.) viewpoint. In part, they formed in opposition to the pictorialist photographic style that had dominated much of the early 20th century, but moreover, they wanted to promote a new modernist aesthetic that was based on precisely exposed images of natural forms and found objects. The members of Group F/64, like Ansel all preferred to shoot in black and white rather than color as they all felt it was more realistic and natural than color and they also created some of the most famous black and white landscapes in the world of photography.
There are also nice third party apps and plug-ins you can use and I personally use quite a few of them to get my images just the way I want them. The NIK Collection is one of my favorites and comes with a great B&W plug-in called Silver Efex Pro 2. This software has a nice set of “recipes” for making different types of B&W images with varying looks, from High Key to Low Key and heavy contrast just to name a few.
For any friends you have that are into photography and cannot afford Lightroom or Photoshop, there is a free, Open Source photo editor called GIMP, which is available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. http://www.gimp.org GIMP is nice as it has ALL of the capabilities of Photoshop with no cost.
Now that you have more information on how to make B&W images, get out there and make some great ones!
CaptureOne Pro 22
Nik Collection by DxO
Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom Photography Plan
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You can find my work @ https://www.liamphotography.net and follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @liamphotoatl. If you like abandoned buildings and history, you can find my project @ http://www.forgottenpiecesofgeorgia.com. and http://www.forgottenpiecesofpennsylvania.com.
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