Montacute House is an Elizabethan mansion in the South West of England. I was there on a pretty dull and overcast day, but I thought the way the sky was reflected in the windows, the texture of the stone facade and the overhanging branches might make an effective composition, even though the image straight from the camera didn’t look interesting at all. Here’s a … [Read more...] about Montacute House in moody monochrome with split toning
Black and white
Technically, black and white should be ‘less’ than colour, but its popularity is, if anything increasing. Black and white suits some subjects extremely well, drawing more attention to shapes, lighting and composition than is generally possible with colour photography. Most cameras have black and white picture modes, which is very useful when you’re composing images, but you get more control over the results by converting colour images to black and white on a computer later, so it’s a bit of a dilemma which route to take.
Black and white photography is as popular as ever, though now it's seen as a means of artistic expression rather than just a way of capturing images. Its continued popularity might be hard to explain logically since it offers 'less' than colour, but that may be part of its appeal – black and white offers fewer distractions, it's less 'literal' and it's easier to control the graphic and compositional elements that go to make up a picture without them fighting or undermining each other.
You can shoot black and white JPEGs in camera or do what most black and white fans do, which is to shoot RAW files and then process them into black and white later. This offers a 'digital negative' with a much wider brightness range and more scope for manipulation without image degradation.
Programs like Lightroom and Capture One are really good at producing strong, technically excellent black and white images, or you can use 'analog film simulation' tools like Analog Efex Pro, Alien Skin Exposure X or ON1 Photo RAW to create a film-like look.
In the days of film, taking the picture was only the start of the black and white image making process and the real work was done in the darkroom. It's the same now, and the most striking black and white images are created with careful enhancement and manipulation in software.
Continuing this series of ‘preset picks’ from different programs, here is one of my all-time favourites. It’s the Border – Negative (Kodalith) preset from Alien Skin Exposure X4.5 and it can be found in the B&W Misc Effects category. When you break it down into its component parts it’s deceptively simple, but as ever with the best presets, it’s how these tools and … [Read more...] about Preset picks: Alien Skin Border – Negative (Kodalith)
Verdict: 10/10 For fans of black and white photography, Silver Efex Pro is just superb. It recreates the depth, intensity and ’soul’ of black and white in a way few other tools approach, and its controls are geared firmly towards creative photographic processes and visualisation rather than pixels and technicalities. What is Silver Efex Pro? Silver Efex Pro is a … [Read more...] about Silver Efex Pro 2 review
I felt this scene needed to be captured with a deep, brooding intensity, and I particularly wanted to hold on to the textured cloud detail in the sky. Capturing a DNG file with Lightroom Mobile gave all the processing leeway needed. Well, I actually think you can. I like taking pictures with my iPhone. It’s partly a practical thing, as it’s the camera I always have with me. … [Read more...] about Can you really take proper pictures with a smartphone?
DxO PhotoLab can create superb black and white imagery, both in terms of image quality and in creative control, but you need to get the DxO FilmPack 5 Elite add-on to do it. • DxO PhotoLab 2.1 review This does make things more expensive, and it does feel a bit like you’re paying for some things that other programs offer as standard. DxO FilmPack 5 Elite currently costs … [Read more...] about How to get great black and white in DxO PhotoLab… but you’ll need FilmPack 5
With just a couple of exceptions, all digital cameras capture in colour, so if you want black and white images, you have two choices. You can use the camera’s monochrome mode, which will simply convert the image in-camera, or you can carry out the conversion on a computer. This gives more control and better results, but there are several methods to choose from. 01 … [Read more...] about 5 ways to convert colour images to black and white
One of the reasons I rate image effects programs so highly compared to traditional image editors is the way they open your eyes to effects you wouldn’t have thought of. Like applying the Lith Border effect in Alien Skin Exposure X3 to this early morning shot of a country church. There’s already a lot of contrast in this shot, with the sun shining through the leaves towards the … [Read more...] about Try a black and white high contrast Lith effect
It does seem a bit perverse, adding colour to a black and white image which used to be colour in the first place, but hand-coloured (or digitally-coloured) black and white has a very particular 'look' that colour images just don't have. So this image (below) is one I originally shot in colour but then reworked as a black and white image with a little more contrast and a … [Read more...] about Hand coloured black and white with a bi-colour filter
If you want to add a dark and brooding sky to your black and white photos then a graduated filter is the obvious way to do it. As long as the sky still has a full range of tones, i.e. it's not burned out to a solid white anywhere, you can practically do what you like with it. Here's an example. This picture is already quite rich and contrasty, but it would be nice to add … [Read more...] about Improve your compositions with two graduated filters not one
Back in the days of film, a ‘straight’ black and white print was only a stepping stone. A properly finished print was almost always enhanced with some skilled ‘dodging and burning’. Dodging and burning is a classic technique in black and white, where certain areas of a print are held back (dodged) under the enlarger to make them lighter and others are given extra exposure … [Read more...] about Rediscover dodging and burning in black and white