Simultaneous Monochrome & Color Portraiture

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras have a built-in monochrome capture option with some offering scene modes, Canon calls’em Picture Styles, that let you enhance gray tones while making the rest of the colors less vibrant producing an old-fashioned hand-colored look.

The reality is that you can always shoot in color and  make these kinds of adjustments after the fact using Adobe Photoshop or your favorite digital imaging software but shooting directly in black & white impacts how you see while you’re making the image and getting instant feedback helps focus your vision. For portraits, it also lets you share that vision with the subject. I’m not afraid of losing the original color image because I can capture color and monochrome image files at the same time and so can you:

Almost all DSLRs or mirrorless cameras have the ability to simultaneously capture RAW+JPEG files with these cameras letting you capture monochrome-only images as JPEG files. When setting 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.)

How I made this shot: I photographed Colleen Brianne using a Dynalite Baja B6 battery-powered monolight and 24-inch Dynalite Octagon softbox placed at camera right. Another Baja was used as a back or rim light. Camera was a Panasonic Lumix GH4 and Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens with an exposure of 1/60 sec at f/9 and ISO 200.

I like shooting portraits like this one using RAW+JPEG capture because the LCD provides a preview of what the black & white image will look like—handy for showing it to portrait subjects—while the color RAW files is used to produce the finished image. Why? A black & white file only gives 256 grey tones to work with and retouch, while the color file provides 16.7 million possible colors making subtle retouching simpler and more seamless in the finished portrait.

PS. There are some other posts on this blog reflecting my interest in monochrome portraiture and you can read them here and here.


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My book Joe Farace’s Glamour Photography is full of tips, tools and techniques for glamour and boudoir photography with new copies available from Amazon for $27.43, as I write this. Used copies start at the hard-to-beat price price of $5.33 and the Kindle version is $11.99 for those who prefer a digital format.