Home My photo challenge Black and white

Black and white

by Ally

The secrets of black and white post-processing and the theme for this week’s photo challenge.

We are extremely lucky to live in an era where technology has made so many advances. I still remember the days where if you wanted to take some photos, you’d have to go to the shop, buy some film … and there you’d have to choose if you wanted black and white film, or colour. You’d also choose the ISO specifically for the type of photography you were planning to do. And then, once you’d taken the photographs, you’d have to take the film back to the shop, and wait a week before you’d get your prints back! Only to find out that you had over-exposed every image …

Ok, maybe not the last part! The point is, I consider myself extremely lucky to be a photographer in a world where I can take a photo and see it immediately on the back of camera. If it’s over-exposed, I can amend the settings, and try again! Until I get it right. My memory card can hold up to 600 images, so there’s no fear that I will ever run out of film! And I can adjust the ISO settings in camera in a fraction of a second.

And to top it all, when I look at my images in Lightroom afterwards, I can choose which ones I leave colour and which ones I turn to black and white!

But what makes me decide if a photo stays colour, or if it looks better in black and white?

Recently, I was extremely delighted to have received a Highly Commended award from the SWPP (The Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers) for … surprise surprise … a black and white image!

And here’s the colour version. Which do you prefer?

I think the colour version is beautiful, but the black and white suits it better! Despite the gorgeous blue dress …

A portrait with lots of shadows, in my opinion is better suited for a black and white conversion. Shadows create a beautiful contrast which is often enhanced when all other colours are removed.

I absolutely love this portrait of Jacques … it’s moody, it’s strong … maybe slightly mysterious. The colour version is great, but I don’t think it carries the same punch.

As I was looking through all my black and white photographs, I noticed that most of them look dark and moody, some more than others. I don’t think I have yet found a happy black and white image in my collection.

Here’s a picture of Fin from his recent model and actor portfolio shoot. There are less shadows on the face, but the contrast between the lighter skin colours and the dark background make for a beautiful black and white image … And of course, it is still moody. There will be more photos of Fin in a blog in the next few weeks, so keep an eye out!

Another reason to turn an image black and white is to hide various imperfections, often to do with white balance – when a photo looks too yellow or worse, too green! This is often caused by ambient light, and mostly happens in event photography when you have very little control over the lighting in a particular venue. Even though modern editing software can usually resolve this, sometimes it is just as easy to turn the photo black and white, and hey presto! You have a perfect photograph!

Finally, as you probably know, landscape photography is really not my thing. I find it hard to take good landscape photographs … but occasionally I try my hand at it! Practice makes better, right?

I have noticed however that I prefer my landscape photographs black and white. Here’s an example of a photograph I took from my hotel room in London a couple of months ago. It had been raining horribly, but the sun decided to come out for a bit. Here is the original photograph in colour … It’s ok!

And here is the black and white version (with some pretty heavy contrast and level adjustments!) It looks so much better, doesn’t it?

So here are my black and white secrets. Do you have any others? If you do, share below …

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