If you want to add a whole new level of allure and professional quality to your black and white photography then you will find these tips and techniques more than helpful.
Landscapes so immaculate that your eyes can see every color in the real scene; portraits with quality so sharp that you can see dirt on their faces and threads on their shirts.
We’ve all been allured by magnificent black and white photos, but few of us know the tips and tricks that are required to take them. Here is a simplified guide that will teach you how to capture professional-looking monochrome pictures from taking them to touching them up in Photoshop.
Hold Up—What Is “Monochrome?” How Does It Work?
Before I jump into the technical stuff, let’s talk about how black and white photography works. “Monochrome” is any painting, drawing, design, or photograph that uses only one color. More specific to our topic, monochrome uses the different shades of grey— also known as “grayscale”—in order to build the photo.
“Monochrome conversion” is the process in which your camera or editing software changes the colors in you photo into specific shades of gray. For example, the grayscale value of magenta will be darker than the grayscale value of yellow; the magenta parts of the subject will be darker in monochrome than the yellow parts of the subject.
Awesome. Now, What Camera Setting Should I Use?
Sometimes it is difficult to imagine how a given scene will look in black and white. Most digital cameras have monochrome modes that will show you how the picture will look, which is a vital tool for both capturing and experimenting to see how different scenes and subjects look with the other colors taken away.
Shoot in RAW and JPEG simultaneously in order to save the full color information. This allows your camera to produce a more accurate monochrome conversion, both in preview and after the photo is taken.
Some cameras even have “picture style” or “film simulation” settings that allow you to add textures and effects common to monochrome photography. Experiment with these settings and maybe you’ll find something you like!
Technical Jargon aside, What Should I Look for When Taking the Actual Picture?
Simply put, contrast. Some hues in color photography, such as red and green, look great together. After the monochrome conversion, however, they will appear similar and dull. Look out for scenes with strong tonal contrast.
Those who are experienced with Photoshop can avoid this issue and change specific colors in the photo before tonal conversion. Select “Edit” on the menu bar and play around with the “Hue/Saturation” setting as a way to achieve this.
Additionally, seek out scenes with strong and varying textural details. Bark from a tree can add interest to a woodland scene, whereas a grainy sky can be the hallmark of a cityscape.
Long exposure is an important tool for textural contrast. A tripod may be necessary to retain the sharp aspects of the shot, but exposing over a longer period of time can make for smooth waters and dreamy fog.
What About Filters For Black and White Photography?
Polarizing and graduated neutral density filters can be essential for monochrome photography, just as they are with colored shots. They can manipulate image contrast, which is important for monochrome conversion as explained above.
All of us have frustrated over washed out skies that appear white after the photo is taken. In fact, there is often no data collected in washed out skies—not even white! Polarizers can solve this issue by darkening these hues and preserving more data. This can benefit textural contrast as well by adding more detail to the clouds.
Colored filters can also be helpful. They darken object of the opposite color while lightening objects of their own, which leads to stronger contrast after monochrome conversion. For example, a green filter will brighten the foliage and darken the red hues of the tree bark. Try this basic color filter pack here on Amazon.
Great—I Took Some Pictures. How Should I Edit Them?
Similar programs can achieve many of the same effects, but I will focus this article on the functions of Photoshop.
Use the Adobe Camera Raw function to take control of the monochrome conversion process (find is in the HSL/Grayscale tab).
You can adjust the brightness of the eight colors that make up the image. The sliding controls are simple and provide a live view of how the image looks. Be careful, though—Adjusting the brightness of a sandy beach will also impact the skin of your subject.
Other tools, such as Levels and Curves, can also be used to manipulate contrast and tonal range. Dodge and Burn allows you to control the highlights, mid-tones, and shadows of a photo, which is a great way of adding sharpness and texture to your work. Experiment with these settings and understand that each image will require a different edit.