Monochrome is Not Just Black & White

by | Mar 2, 2021

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Not every photograph that you make needs to be in color; sometimes a black and white or a toned monochrome image can tell a better story.

And monochrome doesn’t always mean black and white…or even sepia tones. Sometimes you might want to add a dash color but not too much! That’s when your camera’s built-in digital toning modes come in handy.

Many DSLR and mirrorless cameras lets you apply several different toning effects including Sepia, Blue, Purple, Green, or None. How these effects appear can be modulated by applying in-camera filters as discussed in my post Using Digital Color Filters for Black & White Portraits. These film camera-style digital filters and toning effects can even be applied together and since you get to see the results right away, so you can decide if you like how the effect looks and want to make other changes.

There is no one-size-fits all approach to what digital toning effect works best either! It depends on the subject, the original colors in the image (if you want to provide a visual hint) and the mood that you’re trying to achieve. When’s the last time you heard the words “mood” and “digital” in the same sentence but that’s what in-camera monochrome filter and toning capabilities is all about.

How I shot the above image: It was a chilly day when I was making this photograph of a one-room schoolhouse at the Adams County Historical Museum using a (now discontinued) Samsung mirrorless camera. Aperture Priority exposure was 1/90 sec at f/16 and ISO 100 with a plus one-half stop exposure compensation because of the snow in the scene. The image was initially converted in camera to a black and white version using the camera’s Digital Filter feature, saved and then converted into this version using the camera’s Color filter. Yes, I ended up with three versions of this shot: the original color, black & white, then the blue toned one that’s shown above.


My book Creative Digital Monochrome Effects is available from Amazon and even includes a chapter on infrared photography. New copies are selling for $19.40 with used copies starting at $8.59. There’s no Kindle version of the book available, sorry.