Three Reasons to Try Shooting Glamour in B&W

by | Mar 3, 2021

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Back in the film days, there were several ways that you could capture images. You could shoot color negative or slide film or you could use black and white film that would let you create an entirely different version of that same photograph. To your eyes the original scene might look the same but your interpretation would vary based on the kind of film you loaded into the camera. That’s why medium format cameras like the Hasselblad with its interchangeable back were so popular and when we owned our studio Mary and I often used this as a selling point when pitching clients who needed both monochrome and color images from a shoot.

Nowadays, most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras offer several options for monochrome capture and some even offer a palette of toning you can apply. The Fuji X-T100 I tested for Shutterbug has four different monochrome modes, three with different colored filter implementations. And you can always make adjustments after the fact by using Photoshop or your favorite digital imaging software.

Here are a three reasons why monochrome may be a good idea for some glamour portraits:

Aesthetics: Sometimes too much color in am image confuses the viewer and removes the focus from the real subject of the photograph. Shooting in black and white impacts how you see while you’re shooting and allows you show your model what you’re trying to accomplish. You don’t have to explain that you’ll convert the shot into monochrome later; it’s already there in black and white!

Workflow: If you want to make prints on-site or drop the memory cards off at a local printer or lab, capturing the file directly in black and white saves time. But there’s also many ways to use software and Photoshop-compatible plug-ins to produce great looking black and white images from color files. I even wrote a book about it called Digital Monochrome Special Effects (with used copies selling for affordable prices as I write this,)

Feedback: Perhaps the best reason to shoot in monochrome is the feedback you and the model get by looking at the captured black and white image on the camera’s LCD screen. That’s why one of my favorite tricks is to shoot my glamour and boudoir session using RAW+JPEG capture, with the camera’s Monochrome mode selected. This approach produces two files: A color RAW file and a black and white JPEG that’s used for evaluation on the camera’s preview screen during the shoot with the RAW file saved for processing later. It’s much easier to retouch a RAW color file than a black and white JPEG image because there are so many more tones available to work with. And multi-card slot cameras, like my Lumix G9, make keeping them separate a breeze.

That’s not to say that the best way to capture monochrome glamour images is in camera. That approach is just another tool that I use when creating monochrome portraits (and infrared landscapes too.) But everybody’s workflow is different so it’s always best to do what works for you, so ultimately it’s your call.

How I Made this Shot: The specs for Ashley Hannah’s portrait above are: The backdrop was a 5×7-foot Photo Grey Savage Infinity vinyl background. Lighting was my usual combination of Paul C Buff’s Alien Bees and DigiBees monolights. The camera used 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/8 and ISO 200. The RAW file was retouched while it was in color and was then converted to monochrome using Exposure Software’s Exposure X4 and slightly tweaked with the Glamour Glow filter in Color Efex Pro.

If you enjoyed today’s blog post and would like to treat me to a cup of Earl Grey tea ($2.50), please click here. And if you do, thanks so much.

My book Joe Farace’s Glamour Photography is full of tips, tools and techniques for glamour and boudoir photography and includes information on all of the cameras used as well as the complete exposure data for each image. New books are available from Amazon for $29.53 with used copies starting at $8.90 as I write this, a bargain if I ever heard of one. The Kindle version is $19.99 for those preferring a digital format.