Simultaneous Monochrome & Color Portraiture

by | Jan 29, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras have a built-in monochrome capture mode with some  offering what they call “scene modes.” Canon calls them Picture Styles including one—Nostalgia— that enhances gray tones while making the rest of the colors less vibrant producing a hand-colored look. (Look for a post about Picture Styles on my car photography blog real soon now. I’ll update with a link when it runs.)

The reality is that you can always shoot in color and make these kinds of monochromatic conversions after the fact with Adobe Photoshop or your favorite digital imaging software.

But shooting directly in black & white impacts how you see while you are making the image and provides instant feedback will helping focus your vision. For portraits, it also lets you share that vision with the subject. And I’m not afraid of losing the original color image because I capture color and monochrome image files at the same time and so can you!

In addition to monochrome capture, most DSLRs or mirrorless camera have the ability to simultaneously capture RAW+JPEG files. If you set your camera for RAW+JPEG capture then select the monochrome effect you want, you’ll end up with two files: One in color (RAW) and the other in black and white (JPEG.)

I like to shoot RAW+JPEG images when making portraits because the LCD provides a preview of what the black & white image will look like—handy for showing portrait subjects during a session—while the color RAW files is used to produce the finished image. Why? A black and white file only gives me 256 grey tones to retouch, while the color file gives 16.7 million possible colors making subtle retouching simpler and seamless.

Tip: These days Many digital SLRs that have dual memory card slots let you capture RAW files on one memory card and JPEG image files on the other. That means you can put all your color RAW files on one card and monochromes on the other. Give it a try.


Copies of my book Creative Digital Monochrome Effects is available from Amazon with new copies selling for $33.40 with used copies starting around two bucks, way less than your next coffee at a Starbucks drive-through. No Kindle version is currently available, sorry.