LEARNING TO SEE IN BLACK AND WHITE

Here’s a thing…

This post is going to be short, but it comes with a challenge…

My challenge to you is to change your camera settings to Monochrome and shoot some black and white photographs.

Away from here, the digital world, I shoot a lot of film on my medium format camera.  I realised lately that my lovely digital students are missing something.  If you shoot on film, the very first choice you will make is what you are going to shoot and then what sort of film will you use – colour or black and white?

With digital cameras, it seems to be quite the other way – you shoot in colour and then convert to black and white when you come to edit your photograph.  This got me thinking – can you shoot in black and white in camera – and the answer is yes.  Please note that I’m talking Canon here… This can be done quickly and simply too… on Canon or Fujifilm cameras, press the Q button on the back of your camera – on Nikon, press the i button, scroll through to Picture Style and then select Monochrome.  Make a mental note of where your camera was set to start with – you may even look at other options when you return to colour. 

If you use the live view facility, where you can see your scene on the screen on the back of your camera, then it will be in black and white.

By making these small changes, then you will be able to see and deliberately shoot in black and white.  When you shoot and print black and white film, you make other choices too – which speed for the amount of light/grain, using coloured filters both on your camera and in the darkroom to control/enhance colours and contrast.

To start with, consider whether you are wanting a smooth grained print or a print with more grain – change your ISO accordingly.  If you decide that you want to take this way of shooting more seriously, then look at coloured filters that screw onto the front of your lens… These filters change how the camera sees the light, and the effect depends on the colour of the filter.  Coloured filters can also come in a graduated format, which means half the filter is coloured, gradually becoming clear on the other half. Graduated filters are commonly used to apply the filter affect to the sky, but not the rest of the scene.

  • Red filters absorb blue and green. They’re good fоr сrеаtіng ехtrеmе соntrаѕtѕ, еѕресіаllу іn thе ѕkу fоr lаndѕсаре photographs.
  • Orange filters іnсrеаѕе cоntrаѕt bеtwееn rеdѕ аnd уеllоwѕ. They dаrkеnѕ thе ѕky, ассеntuаtе сlоudѕ аnd  ѕubduеѕ аmbіеnt lіght.  They also hеlр tо brіng оut  tехturе оf  ѕtоnе.
  • Yellow filters  іmрrоvеѕ соntrаѕt bеtwееn сlоudѕ аnd ѕkу.
  • Yellow-Green filters have the most uses all around, ranging from portraits to greenery.
  • Green will lighten any grееnеrу in ѕсеnеѕ – trees, grass еtс.
  • Blue filters will enhance reds and oranges, while playing up the contrast a bit.

You should, apparently, ask your camera to shoot both RAW and Jpeg images when using this mode. The RAW will give you colour files and jpegs will give you black and white files… well, this is true of the camera that I use. However, it saves the colour version in RAW and the black and white version as Jpegs. I see little point in shooting Jpeg black and white files – if you are wanting to produce black and white photographs there is the inevitable loss of date within the files. I much prefer to use the live view to see the images in black and white and have the benefit of all the extra date in RAW files and convert them into black and white as I see and not as a computer sees…

Do take some time to look into the work of classic black and white photographers in various genres… Irving Penn, Robert Mapplethorpe, Imogen Cunningham, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Vivian Maier, Berenice Abbott, Edward Weston, Lilian Bassman and Saul Leiter.

Look at the story of Charles Jones and his vegetable photographs. And for interiors and architectural images, two of my all time favourites – Lilo Raymond, Frederick H. Evans – His platinum prints of medieval cathedrals in England and France are among the most renowned architectural images in photographic history.

About Julie Davenport

JULIE DAVENPORT is a Fine Art Lifestyle Photographer, a Creative and generous in sharing tips and hints for Photography, Creativity and a Creative Lifestyle. She has one goal – to inspire and empower creatives and aspiring photographers with heart centred education, support and encouragement to guide them to achieve their vision. Known for her signature style painterly touch and love of light and elegant composition, she draws much of her inspiration from Scandinavian painters and the seasonal rhythms of country life in her beloved Cotswold countryside in the UK. After a lifetime spent in photography, her work has now grown into a full time photography and education business - specialising in professional online training and inspiring other creatives, designers, makers and photographers. Through her depth of knowledge of her subject and unwavering passion, she has become THE authority for creative souls looking for heart centred education, support and encouragement to guide them through to achieve their vision.