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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Technical Side Of B&W

Shoot Monochrome Or Convert Later? • Filters For Digital B&W • Best Choices For IR Conversions IR: Fake Or Real? • Printing Digital B&W

Labels: How-ToColumnTech Tips

The colored image of the koi and sparkling highlights was captured with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Canon EF 24-105mm L IS USM lens. Exposure was 1⁄750 sec. at ƒ/19 to render the highlights on the water as stars. The image was converted to black-and-white using Nik Software Silver Efex Pro 2.

Shoot Monochrome Or Convert Later?
Q When I want the final results from my DSLR to be black-and-white, should I set the camera to shoot in black-and-white or continue to shoot in color (RGB) and convert later?
G. Blackmore
Via the Internet

A Some digital SLRs do have the capability to shoot a black-and-white image, and if you're shooting JPEGs and relying on the camera to do the post-capture processing, that's a reasonable way to work. But the best thing about the digital realm is the expansion of possible interpretations of every subject. I never want to limit those options at the outset, so I always capture in full-color RAW format to get the maximum detail and quality my camera and lens can muster. Then I make my final decisions about the image when I've converted the RAW file and I'm working with a full set of optimization tools in Photoshop, including black-and-white as an option. Photoshop does a good job of black-and-white conversion and is improving all the time. Several plug-in software programs facilitate the conversion to black-and-white in Photoshop. My favorite is Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro 2 (www.niksoftware.com), which offers a number of darkroom-like tools to allow the photographer to fine-tune the final black-and-white image.

When you work this way, every image you take is a potential black-and-white image of excellent quality, with a full range of tones. But when capturing images that you intend to finish in black-and-white, keep in mind that color will no longer carry the photograph, so composition and tonal range are even more important.

Filters For Digital B&W
Q I want to convert some of my digital captures into black-and-white images. When I used black-and-white film in earlier years, I added filters to the lens to gain contrast or change the tones of certain colors. I regularly used yellow, orange and red filters. What filters should I use when capturing digital images for black-and-white?
J. Crider
Via the Internet

A In the digital age, I no longer use colored filters for black-and-white capture, but I continue to use polarizing and neutral-density filters to achieve certain exposure and compositional effects. A polarizing filter adds contrast and darkens skies in the color image, which will carry over into the black-and-white conversion. I most often use neutral-density filters at capture to lengthen exposure and change the properties of water.

Those colored filters we used with black-and-white film aren't usable with color digital capture, and if you've read the preceding question, you know that even if you're anticipating black-and-white rendition, it's best to capture in color. Now we apply the filters to the image after conversion to black-and-white in Photoshop using adjustment layers and color channels. Remember that a color filter on black-and-white lightens the same color in the image and darkens opposite colors. Thus, a red filter darkens blue skies, emphasizing white clouds, but lightens the tones of red rocks.

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