Not only am I interested in black and white photography, I’m branching out and doing my best to recreate the same look and feel as some authentic, antique black and white and toned black and white photos. You may even think I’m obsessed with it (and you might be right)!
I’m not going to go into the mechanics of how to do black and white, or processing to give an image a vintage look. There are plenty of resources available for that. Youtube is one of the best places to start. This is more about my thoughts behind the pursuit of creating these type of images.
To start off, what makes a good candidate for black and white? For some folks, it’s a street scene. For others it’s an interesting face. For me, it’s old buildings, aircraft, and other antique or abandoned items. That’s not a hard and fast rule, just something that works for me. Every once in awhile a seascape or landscape will also work in black and white.
There are many tools available to help you create the perfect black and white image. Yes, some cameras have this feature built in, and sometimes you can get some good results this way. Personally I find shooting all originals in color and in RAW works best for me. I prefer to do my conversion on the computer. It’s very easy to convert a color image to black and white, but very difficult or next to impossible to convert black and white to color.
My favorite tool for black and white work starts with Photoshop. But while Photoshop is very versatile, there are some plugins that make it even better. Perfect Effects by OnOne Software is one of my most used tools. Nik also makes a plugin called Siver Effex Pro that I like, but lately I’ve been using another Nik tool called Analog Effex. These plugins also work with Lightroom if you happen to have it.
In todays world of bright vibrant color, why work with black and white? It’s hard to explain. I’ve always been amazed with the work of Ansel Adams. The mood that he created with his richly toned black and white masterpieces was amazing. In some ways, he captured the raw drama and emotion of a scene without color getting in the way. Sometimes the tone and textures of a scene are brought out in a way that color just can’t do. And when it’s done right you may not even notice that it’s black and white.
One last thing regarding the tools – which camera did I use? My opinion is usually that the camera doesn’t matter, and I’ll stick with it here too! Most of these were done with my Canon 40D, but in one case, I used my Olympus E-M5. I really don’t think it matters that much. I could just as easily have used my wife’s Canon S95 point and shoot. Just use what you have and concentrate more on capturing the scene rather that what you have or don’t have in the camera bag.
While black and white isn’t for everyone, you may still want to give it a try. You just never know when you are working an image and it jumps up and grabs you in a way that it just couldn’t when it’s in color.
Before I close, I want to let you know that the good folks at OnOne are still giving away Perfect Effects 8 for free. That’s right, FREE! Just click on the link and you’ll be able to download your copy. Try it, use it, love it!
Here are some of my most recent examples:
That’s it for now. Until next time – Happy Shooting!