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How To Use Black And White

How To Use Black And White – Many photographers consider black and white the classic form of photography, but digital technology has helped make black and white photography a dynamic and creative modern activity.

With black and white photography, the limitations of conveying reality don’t come into play because there is no reality conveyed in shades of gray. Therefore, I can take an image file and use the tools available in the digital darkroom to create colors that reflect my interests, visual preferences, and emotion of the scene in a very different way than a digital photo.

How To Use Black And White

How To Use Black And White

In this article, I’ll start by sharing some introductory lessons that can help photographers create more engaging and personally expressive black and white photos.

Shooting Black & White Landscapes

Below, I’ll outline my black and white photo processing workflow and share some examples of how to apply the workflow to specific photos.

It’s hard to summarize years of learning and experimentation into a few points, but I’ve found the following lessons to be the most important for photographers who are just starting out and want to create better black and white photos:

Often, the most striking black and white photos are the result of a well-thought-out creative decision to create a black and white photo. The process usually starts on site.

Black and white photography is not just a fallback for bad color photos, but an equally valid creative pursuit that offers various opportunities for personal expression and experimentation.

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Since we don’t experience monochromatic scenes, black and white photos don’t have the emotional attachment and expectation that color photos do. Embracing this aspect of working in black and white is part of what makes it such a broad and freeing creative pursuit.

While all of the scenes you see in this article reflect unique moments I experience in nature, I deviated from a literal interpretation of these scenes during the processing stage to help achieve my goals for black and white photography (specifically emphasizing the darkness and drama). often found in nature).

Learning how a color scene converts to a black and white photo can be challenging, but it’s an important skill to learn. For example, a photo of green bushes and red berries will have a lot of color contrast, but when converted to shades of gray, the same scene will appear dull.

How To Use Black And White

As another example, let’s take white clouds under a dark sky. When converted to black and white, the bright white tones will contrast with the dark gray sky.

Black And White Cleanser

A great way to start learning this skill is to take some color photos and convert them to black and white using software like Lightroom. Observe how colors translate into shades of gray, then apply these observations to the scene.

The next step is to learn how to manipulate color to introduce or control contrast when working with black and white photos. Experimenting with the color sliders in the Black and White Blend pane of Lightroom’s Develop module can also help you develop this skill.

Mood and light are crucial to making your photos emotional, but not in the same way as with color photography.

For example, make an effort to ditch typical landscape “rules” such as “only shoot during golden hours.” Doing this will help you create more black and white photography opportunities in the field.

Visualization For Better Black And White Photography

All types of light will work, including brighter light at noon. Likewise, look for moody scenes, such as dark, dreary weather, to work well with black and white photos.

Long exposures help capture interesting patterns in the waves in Vik, Iceland. This photo was taken on a very dreary, gray day, a time many would consider inappropriate for landscape photography.

Some color photographs succeed thanks to the overwhelming power of dramatic colored light, even if the composition is less than convincing.

How To Use Black And White

This means that composition plays an important role in creating attractive black and white photos. Therefore, learning to incorporate strong graphic elements and abstract elements into your work can help enhance your black and white portfolio.

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My personal experience shows that well-adjusted tonal contrast can often bring a black and white photo to life. Therefore, grayscale conversions and presets are almost never the final solution.

During processing, simply converting to grayscale is rarely sufficient. Black and white presets usually convert the photo to grayscale and add some contrast, but usually not enough and in some of the wrong places.

So if creative expression is one of your goals in photography, learning to make your own processing decisions is often a key step in developing a more personal portfolio. By relying on presets or simple grayscale conversions, you can let algorithms or other photographers decide what your photo should look like.

While presets can be a great learning tool and provide a great place to start working on certain photos, learning how to make manual adjustments in your favorite processing software can help you finish your photos in a way that fits your vision.

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Many photographers are very surprised when I say no. From my perspective, Silver Efex is a tool in my processing toolbox. It can be fun to try presets to see the potential of your photos, but for my work I generally prefer other tools, specifically Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.

First, working with black and white photos can push the archive to its limits. When using Photoshop, I get cleaner files than when using presets or other packages, even when making significant adjustments to contrast.

What’s more, Photoshop offers complete manual control over the results and many options to make very precise adjustments. Pick up the Sand Blade pictured above. It would be difficult and/or tedious to emphasize the sand as shown here using any tools other than layers and masks in Photoshop.

How To Use Black And White

Although Photoshop has a learning curve, when you consider its flexibility and potential for excellent results, the time investment spent in understanding the software is well worth it. And, as I discuss below, you only need a few tools to get started (Levels, Curves, Luma Mask, and Dodge/Burn tools).

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My workflow for working with black and white photos using Lightroom and Photoshop can be summarized into five steps, which I briefly describe below (if you want to learn more and see an extended example of this workflow in practice, see the detailed explanation in Black and White Photos ) White Photography). : The Nature Photographer’s Complete Guide).

This workflow is for photos that can be created using one file, as combining files for exposure, depth of field, or other reasons adds more complexity and quite a few extra steps.

Heavy winter rains flood Death Valley National Park’s Badwater Basin, creating unique conditions for this iconic location.

I’ve also shared some examples of how each step applies to the photo above (not the complete steps for processing a photo, but some key examples of each step of the workflow).

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I took this photo in Death Valley National Park in Badwater Basin, California. While Badwater Basin is a mesmerizing location to photograph in any condition, flooding can make it a magical experience.

Here, the edge of the salt is just above the still water. This allows for reflections and well-defined polygons, which works great for black and white photos. The white edges of the salt stand out against the darker areas of the water. This type of tonal contrast helps add visual interest to black and white photos.

Also, I took this photo a few hours before sunset, another important lesson for anyone interested in black and white photography. Bright afternoon light may look unappealing in color photos, but it works well when converted to black and white.

How To Use Black And White

This is an unadjusted RAW file. The following description outlines some of the steps from a RAW archive to the final version described above.

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After selecting the photos I want to process, I start making preliminary technical adjustments in Lightroom. This usually includes cropping, noise reduction, exposure balancing and other preliminary steps in processing RAW files.

Note: I can process quite a few black and white photos using Lightroom alone. While many of the same tasks can be performed in Lightroom and Photoshop, I prefer the ease and precise control of Photoshop’s tools.

For this example photo, my steps in Lightroom included technical fixes and some initial creative choices.

For example, I used Lightroom’s lens correction tools to remove some wide-angle distortion on the horizon. I also used the graduated filter tool to start balancing the exposure between the foreground and sky.

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While you can make these changes in Photoshop, I like to go into Photoshop with a balanced exposure and make some initial contrast adjustments when working with a single profile.

Lightroom (or its companion Adobe Camera RAW) can produce better results at recovering highlights and shadows than trying to do the following:

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