Think Black and White
A black and white image came to mind for this week’s Sunday Post theme: “Shelter.” To learn more about the photo challenge and how to participate go here: http://www.jakesprinters.wordpress.com
Old, colorless, falling down building work really well for shooting and creating black and white images. I choose this image of this old abandon home because it had a lot of the good characteristics for a great black and white image. I’m going to speak a little more about how you can go about shooting great black and white images.
With all of my photography articles I like providing sample images I’ve shot. This way you get to see what I’m writing about.
Shoot on Grey Days
For the Sunday Post: Shelter challenge, I shot the above image on a overcast and rainy day. Grey days are ideal for black and white photography. The soft light eliminates harshness and provides contrast.
Shapes, Contrast, and Depth of Field
This image works well because we have the differing shapes and contrast between the white petals with the darker head of the cone-flower.
In shooting flowers like this you can add additional contrast by controlling the depth of field. Doing this will make your main subject standout like you see in this image. Shooting at f/5.7 blurred the background cone-flower. You can also achieve the background blur effect using image editing software.
Learn to see Black and White
Learning to “see” in black and white takes practice. However, you can cheat. Check to see if your camera has a monochrome setting. With my Nikon D300 I go to the Shooting Menu > Set Picture Control > Select “monochrome.” Next, I snap some shots, maybe adjust the exposure (brightness) level a little darker and see how the image appears in my LCD. Reminder: Don’t forget to reset your picture control mode back to its original setting.
So what makes the above image work as a great black and white?
Look for overcast, cloudy, active skies
Having skies with ‘action’ in them adds mood and a really dynamic look and feel to a black and white image.
Black and White Nightscapes
I love shooting city nightscapes like this one of Portland, Oregon. Rule #1: Do not shoot when the sky is black! I got away with breaking this important rule because there was a full moon that illuminated the partial cloudy sky which provided enough separation in contrast between the buildings and the sky. Plus, the city lights aided in the separation. Can you imagine how this would look with a solid black sky?
Dusty Blue Sky
What you are after for your nightscape is the “Dusty Blue Sky.” It appears about fifteen minutes after sun goes down and lasting for only a few minutes. You will need to have your camera set up on a tripod before sunset.
Proper Exposure Setting
For this shot I was in manual mode and set the aperture to f/22 and pointed my Nikon D300 to the sky above the city and adjusted my exposure until a shutter speed of 20 seconds indicated a correct exposure. Note: Always set the exposure using the dusky blue sky and not pointed at the city lights.
Finally, I made sure my camera is set to use its self-timer. I press the shutter release and this is the resulting image. The reason I use the self-timer with ‘long’ exposures is simply to avoid any contact with the camera during the exposure time. I don’t want the risk of any camera ‘shake’ since sharpness is key with this type of shot.
Image Editing Software
Photoshop has a few different methods for converting our color image to black and white. For myself, I stopped using PS because each project required a set of complex and lengthy multiple step processes. For the beginner, it can be frustrating and requires a lot of practice time to move through the editing process in a timely manner. If you perform a Google search for converting color to black and white images in Photoshop you will find different methods.
Nik Software – “Silver Efex Pro.” My preference for black and white conversion is this Nik Software plug-in which works with Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and Lightroom. It provides dozens of visual presets as starting points. The first preset you choose may be all you need and you are done. If you want to go further, there is an extensive set of global controls such as brightness, contrast, saturation, structure, film types, toning, and much more.
What makes the choice to use Nik Software is their revolutionary U Point technology for precise selections and adjustments. Using a mouse, I click on a “control point” and place it on a portion of my image I want to adjust. No layers, no masks, etc. U Point system makes my editing process fast and fun.
You can watch a short video demonstration on how quick and easy it is to use the U Point technology, Color Control Points here: U Point technology
Think Black and White the next time you are out shooting. I’ve given you some guidelines and examples for creating terrific black and white images.
Here are two other resources that may be helpful to you as well: Nik Software – Post Processing & Where the Excitement Happens and The “Art” of Seeing: The Rules of Photography
Please feel free to ask questions.