Black & White Photography 2020. 9. 3.¢  What is B&W Photography...

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Transcript of Black & White Photography 2020. 9. 3.¢  What is B&W Photography...

  • Introduction to Black & White Photography

    Kanata Seniors’ Centre Camera Club

    September 4, 2020

  • Overview

    • What is B&W photography? • B&W vs Monochrome • Seeing in B&W

    • History of B&W Photography • 1800s to current

    • Why B&W

    • B&W conversion • In camera • Editors • Plugins

  • What is B&W Photography

    • It is photography where all values except for pure black and pure white are shown as a shade of gray

    • B&W Photography is a special case of monochrome photography.

  • Monochrome vs B&W

    • B&W is a monochrome image • It is the most extreme form as the tonal range can range from pure black to

    pure white.

    • Other monochrome images will substitute some other tone or colour rather than pure white.

    • In digital images colour may be added during the post-processing to create monochrome images.

  • Monochrome vs B&W

    These are all monochrome images; only the one on the extreme right is B&W

    Monochromatic (green) light Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 Colour Digital image converted to B&W in Photoshop

  • Seeing in B&W seems “normal”

    • Human eyes light receptors – 103 million per eye

    • Rods – B&W vision • ~ 96 million – used in B&W (low light night vision) and peripheral vision

    • Cones – Colour Vision • ~ 6 – 7 million

    • Humans are built to see in B&W! • Over 93% of our optical receptors are for B&W vision

  • Short History of B&W Photography

    • Historical Processes

    • Film

    • Digital

  • Oldest Known Photograph View from the Window at Le Gras; Nicéphore Niépce ~ 1826

  • Pictorialism The Hand of Man; Alfred Stieglitz, 1902

  • Modernism The Tetons and the Snake River; Ansel Adams, 1942

  • Contemporary direct B&W Processes - Film

    • Contemporary practice • Shoot B&W Film

    • Traditional “Wet” Darkroom

    • Digitize Negative • Use standard software tools

    to Post Process scanned images

    • Usually medium format and large format • 35mm is usually not used

  • Silver halide paper print - 1982

  • Contemporary direct B&W Processes Digital B&W Camera

    • Leica M10 Monochrom • Only “mainstream”

    digital B&W camera currently on the market.

    • Very high end • Body $12,000

    • Lens - $4,000

  • Modern Digital Camera

    • Convert a colour digital capture to B&W • In-camera

    • In post-processing

  • Why B&W Photography?

    • Simplification

    • Abstraction

    • B&W can be “pushed” harder than colour

    • B&W can fix colour “problems”

    • Provides historical perspective

    • Personal taste

  • Simplification

    • What can make an image simpler than removing all colour content?

    • With an 8-bit jpeg image there are a maximum of 254 shades of gray • Plus pure white and pure black (total of up to 256 tonal values)

    • An 8-bit colour image (256R x 256G x 256B) = 16.8 million colours

    • Over 99.998% of data that the camera can capture has been thrown away.

  • Abstraction

    • Humans see in colour • Approximately 10-million individual shades

    • Tristimulus – red, green & blue cone receptors

    • Representing scenes that we normally see in colour in B&W presents them in an abstract manner. • We are forcing the viewer to view the image using only luminance and


  • B&W

  • Colour – Looks over-processed

  • B&W – no white balance issues

  • Colour / mixed lighting – WB issue

  • Historical perspective

  • Historical perspective

  • Personal taste

    • Some people prefer colour pictures

    • Some people prefer B&W…

  • Can any image work as a B&W?


    • There has to be enough tonal separation for the image to be effective

    • Too many similar tones can lead to a very confusing image • Sometimes we need colours to separate different parts of the image.

    • When colour is an important component of the story you are telling

    • Some images work better in colour than in B&W and sometimes the opposite is true • Experience will teach you which to use

  • Colour is a key element of the story

    • Colouration is a key component of • Animals – especially birds

    • Plants – especially flowers

    • Colour is an important element for other reasons

  • Learning to “see” in B&W

    • B&W is an abstraction • The photographer needs to learn how to recognize a scene that will work in

    this genre.

    • Need to recognize tonality rather than colours • Takes time and takes practice

  • Learning to “see” in B&W

    • Work Aids: • Set camera to RAW + JPEG and shoot in B&W mode

    • Get immediate feedback via the camera rear screen

    • Convert existing colour image to B&W on the computer

    • Many experienced B&W photographers make the decision of whether they are shooting in B&W or color at the time they frame the image in their camera

  • B&W Conversion from a Modern digital Camera

    1. Get the camera to do it

    2. Use a RAW Converter / parametric editor • Lightroom / Adobe Camera Raw • Phase One Capture One

    3. Photoshop or other pixel based editor • Do not do the conversion in a parametric editor if using this approach.

    4. Third-party plug-ins (Nik Color Efex 2)

  • Get the camera to do it

    • Set the camera to shoot in B&W • Most cameras will output B&W JPEG

    • Some can be set to produce TIFF output

    • Raw data (if used) will still be in colour

    • BONUS: The image shown on the screen on the back of the camera will be in B&W

    Consult your camera’s manual for directions on how to do this.

  • B&W Conversion Using Post-Processing Tools

    • Raw Convertor / Parametric Editor • Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw, Capture One, DxO PhotoLab, etc.

    • Pixel-based Editor • Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Affinity Photo, GIMP, etc.

    • Plug-ins • Nik Collection Silver Efex Pro, Topaz Labs Studio, etc.

  • Desaturation – How to not do B&W!

    • Use the hue / saturation adjustment

    • Move saturation slider to -100 • Problems

    • Assigns equal weight to each colour channel

    • This is not the way we tend to see the colours when converted to B&W so the results look “flat”

  • Desaturation

  • Luminance Aware Conversion

    (Red=30%, Green=59%, Blue=11%)

  • Desaturation vs Luminance Aware Conversion

    Saturation Luminance Aware

  • Black & White Adjustment

    • Six sliders – similar in most editing software

    • Convert to monochrome

    • Allows for colour filter effects

  • Affinity Photo

  • Plug-ins

    • DxO Labs Nik Collection • Silver Efex Pro 2

    • fast B&W conversions

    • Pre-sets

    • Can tweak individual pre-sets for custom looks

  • Nik Silver Efex Pro 2

  • “Best Practices” - Black and White Modernist View – Group f/64

    • Most of the image is gray scale • Most B&W images should have a full tonal range from pure black to pure

    white • Set appropriate black point, white point and mid-point

    • Any significant amounts of pure black and pure white are considered poor photographic practice and should be avoided. • Small areas of blown out specular highlights are generally acceptable • Small areas of blocked shadow detail are general acceptable • Large areas of either pure black or pure white are generally not acceptable

  • Partial Colourization

    Use the Adjustment Layer Mask and “poke” a hole in it to let some colour through

  • Additional Reading


  • Questions?