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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Lost Art Of Shooting Black-And-White

Discover the secrets of classic B&W master photographers and see how you can apply their methods to working with your DSLR

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Translating Color
An important part of black-and-white photography today is translating color to black-and-white. Notice I didn't say removing color from black-and-white or simply converting color to black-and-white. It's about translation. You need to be thinking about the same contrasts used when shooting as you make this translation of colors into different shades of gray.

One of the biggest distractions to good black-and-white work are all the "cool effects" you'll find with most black-and-white conversion software. Effects are what you use after you make the translation, not as a substitute for good shades of gray coming from your color image.

Often you can use your black-and-white JPEG image as is with a little tweaking—it can be important to tweak the blacks and whites to get a full range of tonality from black to white, as well as adjust midtones as needed to open up details. If you need to make major adjustments beyond the capacity of a JPEG file, or you want to shift some of the tonalities by changing how colors are translated, then you can go to your RAW file and make adjustments there. I really like using Lightroom combined with Silver Efex Pro for black-and-white translation.

The key to this translation is to use whatever controls you have in your program to change how colors are converted to shades of gray. This is very important—there's no arbitrary shade of gray for any color. Red can be dark, light and every shade in between. The same goes for all other colors. This means you can change how colors interact with each other as they're translated into shades of gray.

In Lightroom, this is adjusted in the Black & White panel. Each slider changes the brightness of a specific color. In Silver Efex Pro, go to the Color Filter section and try the different filters. Each will change how colors translate to black-and-white. Once you've selected one, you can also use the Hue slider for an infinite range of "filters" and the Strength filter to change how strong each filter works on the colors. Regardless of the color controls you use, watch how tonal and textural contrasts change as you select different color adjustments (sharpness is unaffected).


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