My Approach to Black & White Shooting Challenges

by | Apr 13, 2021

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

“The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.” — Emile Zola

One of the things that I like to do to get myself out of a rut is to shoot photographs, especially portraits, in monochrome. It doesn’t have to be all of the images that I’ll make during a session; maybe just a few.

These days, when shooting in direct monochrome mode I’ll often use a “belt and suspender” method to give me options for processing later on. Most cameras have a RAW+JPEG option that lets you capture a monochrome (JPEG) and color (RAW) file at the same time, while displaying a black & white image in the EVF and LCD. After doing a test shoot with a new model, I’ll typically give her the monochrome JPEG files and use the RAW files to create the final version.

Capturing images in color to convert to monochrome later in the digital darkroom is a good idea too. It’s one of the main reasons that I like the RAW+JPEG capture option. All all of my favorite portrait retouching tools, such as Imagenomic’s’ Portraiture, work better with color files because there’s so many more colors for the software to work with.

After retouching, I switch to a monochrome conversion program like  Exposure X4 from Exposure Software, that I used for this glamour portrait of Ashley Hanna. If you want to give the software a try, you can download a 30-day trial version and use it with your own photographs.

How I Made this shot: I photographed Ashley Hannah for the first and only time in my 11×15-foot home studio. The backdrop used was a 5×7-foot Photo Grey Savage Infinity vinyl background.hung, you guessed it, from my failing-apart JTL background stands. Lighting for this portrait was my usual combination of Paul C Buff’s Alien Bees and DigiBees monolights that I have standardized on for studio use. The camera was a Panasonic Lumix GH4 with G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 45mm and an exposure of 1/125 sec and f/5.6 and ISO 200. The RAW file was converted to monochrome with Alien Skin’s Exposure X4* with the Glamour Glow filter from Color Efex Pro added for a final touch..

*I used Exposure Software’s Exposure X4 for the above image. The plug-in’s currently up to X6 but this is the only version that currently works on Photoshop CS6 and the OS I am running on my 5K iMac.



My book Creative Digital Monochrome Effects is available from Amazon for $20.99 with used copies, as I write this, starting at around two bucks, for what is one of my personally favorite books. That’s cheaper than a Starbucks latte, so you should get one while you can.