Black & White Photography 2020. 9. 3.¢ What is B&W Photography...
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Introduction to Black & White Photography
Kanata Seniors’ Centre Camera Club
September 4, 2020
• 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
• 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
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?
• B&W can be “pushed” harder than colour
• B&W can fix colour “problems”
• Provides historical perspective
• Personal taste
• 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.
• 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
Colour – Looks over-processed
B&W – no white balance issues
Colour / mixed lighting – WB issue
• 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
• 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”
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
• DxO Labs Nik Collection • Silver Efex Pro 2
• fast B&W conversions
• 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
Use the Adjustment Layer Mask and “poke” a hole in it to let some colour through