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Thread: Black and White Photography

  1. #1
    Senior Member iND's Avatar
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    Black and White Photography

    I would like to start a discussion on Black and White photography.
    I just got back from Paris and have a renewed interest in Black and White.
    I was especially inspired with the photos of Henri Cartier - Bresson ( you can google some of his works).

    I have used various techniques to convert to B&W and although I am a fan of Silver Effects Pro but I do not find that it satisfies all my desires.
    Simple Raw contrast, black, clarity and saturation adjustments sometimes are more pleasing.

    Each of these examples I posted was post processed with a different technique, software or workflow.

    What little I know about B&W needs to be expanded on.
    I often wonder how the masters perfected their photos with no photoshop, but when I look at them deeper (exhibit at the British Museum) I found that they were not perfect and that was a part of the attraction. Some were more simple than I would have thought of and some were much wider angle than I would have though of and some were much closer than I would have thought of.

    An early piece of advice I got on B&W processing is that in every B&W photo something must be white and something must be black.
    And the mindful reflection that a color photograph captures an image of a person while a B&W captures the soul.

    I am looking forward to a discussion on B&W photography that goes beyond software and post processing and into the art of the subject.

    Thank you.

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    Last edited by iND; 07-04-2013 at 05:38 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member btaylor's Avatar
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    I love black and white photography. I find that some black and white shots tell so much more of a story than a colour one. I actually wrote a blog post about Paris with just black and white shots of the city. You can see it here:

    http://methodicallymuddled.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/paris-the-city-of-boulangeries-patisseries-and-criminal-dazzlery/


    There's a bunch of black and white street stuff in a post about New York in there somewhere too if you're interested.

    I use a bunch of lightroom presets by VSCO for my black and white conversions. They have a heap of film filters and I really like the inky blacks that the black and white films give you. Might be worth a look: http://vsco.co I like the ilford delta filters the best.

    Ben
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ben_taylor_au/ www.methodicallymuddled.wordpress.com
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  3. #3
    Senior Member btaylor's Avatar
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    Ah that's right. I did a whole post on Black and White in New York. http://methodicallymuddled.wordpress...la-playground/

    BT
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ben_taylor_au/ www.methodicallymuddled.wordpress.com
    Canon 5D Mark III | Canon 5D Mark II | Samyang 14mm f/2.8 | Canon 35mm f/1.4L USM | Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM |Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II |Canon 2 x Teleconverter III | Canon 580 EX II Speedlite | Really Right Stuff TVC 34L | Really Right Stuff BH55 LR | Gorillapod Focus | Really Right Stuff BH 30

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    I hope that this thread will be a popular one. I have a summer (and autumn) project that is to do more black and white photography. I don't have lightroom, but found the B/W converter in photoshop nice to work with.

    I am sure I will find inspiration and tips from this thread. The reason why I want to do more B/W is to remove distracting colours from the image, and draw attention towards what I want to depict in the photograph.

    Lars

  5. #5
    Moderator Steve U's Avatar
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    I'm a big fan of B&W.
    I think contrast is one of the main factors that influence me to do a B&W conversion. Where I live we have a beautiful river and the city revolves around it. But it is just brown water. Clean, but brown. So B&W is a really good alternative for water shots.
    I like the effects that Nik help me create and love the grainy, darker feel to some images. I tend to use a vignette a little more as I try and create a "feel" or elicit some form of emotive response to my images.
    I just love it, blown highlights, fuzzy edges, shadows on faces, funny crops, I feel I have a lot more room to be creative with my B&W's.
    There are of course a lot of images in the "official" B&W thread on this site, but here are a few that illustrate what I like about B&W.
    Some may think I ruined perfectly fine colour shots, but to me that's not what I was looking for.

    I stopped this girl on the waterfront and asked her if she minded if I took her photo.
    [img]
    Girl at Wello Pt. by Steve's Life, on Flickr[/img]

    My father-in-law.
    [img]
    Nev by Steve's Life, on Flickr[/img]

    Thanks for viewing and post more B&W.
    Steve U
    Wine, Food and Photography Student and Connoisseur

  6. #6
    Moderator Steve U's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrw View Post
    Have always enjoyed B&W myself and keep finding that people who see my photos also have an appreciation for it as well. One caveat to add to that of course is that many of the photos I convert also have the contrast and compositional strength to stand very well, and may be better, without the distraction of colour from the lines and shapes. As far as the 'need' for a true black and white in every photo I am not convinced. Have seen many, and taken a few, that are mid-tones only. Foggy landscapes are one item that stands out in this category of lower dynamic range. It all depends on the subject and how it is desired to portray it. A wide dynamic range just doesn't always convey the same mood that went with taking the photo in the first place.
    Well said. Sums it up.
    I like the foggy landscapes as well.
    Steve U
    Wine, Food and Photography Student and Connoisseur

  7. #7
    Senior Member iND's Avatar
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    Grain and contrast are a recurring theme with my black and whites.
    I tried to set the black and white ends of the histogram but found it too restricting and often darkened the scene too much.
    I am not really a fan of selecting too many areas individually for adjustment as this is definately in the ability of Silver Effects Pro.
    I do use the burn and didge tools very selectively.
    What am do more is plan my natural light for contrasts that are not too sharp, a good natural light situation beats any postprocessing.
    Last edited by iND; 07-05-2013 at 03:36 PM.

  8. #8
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    dont overedit
    imo, if its taking more then 15mins to edit a photo, you,re doing somethin wrong
    heres a couple of my favorite photos
    http://i.imgur.com/Ra9nf0s.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/a3OfP0C.jpg

    an inversion of a b/w selfportrait done u der bad lighting
    http://i.imgur.com/0dpZc5a.jpg

    i like b/w, but i like pictures with a little bit of color better. this is offtopic so skip this part if youre not interested.
    i often desaturate parts of image where colors would draw viewers attention away from what i consider to be more important part of the photo
    walls and ground have green-yellow moss color in original photos, but desaturating them helped out a lot here imo and kept focus on light or valve which with everything else in b/w pop out a lot more, but at the same time they dont look like overused effect of i dunno red rose and everything else b/w for example
    http://i.imgur.com/OqGBa1c.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/ZNRPEKE.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/uTn2D7N.jpg

    heres another one, i removed strong yellow car light color (i left just a little bit so it would look like the image was not too edited) and blue night color
    http://i.imgur.com/5vZonHl.jpg

    and another one in which i felt after b/w conversion it looks a lot cooler if i keep parts of lightbulb in color (color intensity was around quater of original if i remember correctly)
    http://i.imgur.com/qbs3Auu.jpg

  9. #9
    Senior Member btaylor's Avatar
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    Makes 15min of editing sound like a breeze. I used to get into the darkroom during art class quite a lot during high school, it was a lot of fun but not exactly convenient.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ben_taylor_au/ www.methodicallymuddled.wordpress.com
    Canon 5D Mark III | Canon 5D Mark II | Samyang 14mm f/2.8 | Canon 35mm f/1.4L USM | Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM |Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II |Canon 2 x Teleconverter III | Canon 580 EX II Speedlite | Really Right Stuff TVC 34L | Really Right Stuff BH55 LR | Gorillapod Focus | Really Right Stuff BH 30

  10. #10
    Senior Member iND's Avatar
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    Things that make a good B&W.

    To say a that a good black and white ideally covers a spectrum (histogram) of black to white and that I try to have at least one thing absolute white and one absolute black is perhaps an over simplification but it does help start the discussion.

    In truth most of my better B&W reach to if not touch both ends of the histogram (black....white)

    But the vast majority of my good B&W cover a good stretch of the gray spectrum, which despite a recent book title has more than 50 shades.

    I try to plan a B&W before I shoot, it is rarely an after thought in post processing.
    So I look for things like texture and lighting that is not too sharp.
    I dont mind grain and this allows higher ISOs, which is very liberating.
    But most of all I look for the right colors.

    Here is an example.
    Take an average color chartClick image for larger version. 

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    Apply two techniques to convert it to B&W

    simple RAW desaturationClick image for larger version. 

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    Then a B&W preset in Color Effects Pro
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    Two points here:
    Desaturation by itself results in a much narrower range of grays.
    While Color Effects Pro and Silver Effects Pro can considerably increase the spectrum.
    Second when I see blue and green I think left histogram (black end) and when I see yellow and green I think right side of the histogram (white) and I see red as mid grays.
    I use this minds eye to decide preshutter snap if I am going to have a good gray spectrum that usually results in a better B&W
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    Last edited by iND; 07-06-2013 at 01:19 AM.

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