Today’s Post by Joe Farace
Proving you can change your tune, Paul Simon changed the lyrics of Kodachrome to “everything looked better in black & white” when he performed the song in Central Park in 1991.
At the suggestion of one of my other blog’s readers I added a section to the right-hand column called “Top Posts,” so if someone was new to the blog, they would see the most popular posts and use the list to catch up with what’s going on the New Blog.
Last week, I noticed a trend. Even though only some of each month’s posts were about black and white photography, it turned out that these were the most popular posts.
And I can understand why. Sometimes color confuses a viewer taking the focus away from the photograph’s real subject, especially in portraiture. Some black and white images, such as landscapes, have more drama when seen in monochrome. Without a blue sky the clouds can “pop” creating a more exciting look.
There are many ways to create black & white digital images. You can capture images just the way you do now in color and convert the image file to monochrome later using software such as Silver Efex Pro or Alien Skin’s Exposure. You can also shoot black & white images directly in-camera. Almost all DSLRs and mirrorless cameras offer monochrome modes and even toning effects that let you shoot in black and white and see how it looks while making the image, which is how I made the image at right of my muse Erin Valakari. Here’s an old tip: Shoot in RAW+JPEG mode so you still have a color file, if you change your mind later.
When making portraits, the instant feedback on seeing the images in monochrome helps focuses your vision and also lets you show your subject what you’re trying to accomplish. You don’t have to explain to them how you’ll convert the shot into monochrome later; it’s already there on the LCD screen! This approach provides an immediacy to the process and you can make B&W prints using a PictBridge printer or drop your memory cards off at a local Target because capturing the file in black and white saves time.
My out-of-print book Creative Digital Monochrome Effects is still available and (I think anyway) is a fun read. It’s available used from Amazon for the bargain price of $4.00. There’s even a chapter on infrared photography.