Nikon D800, 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII lens @155mm, f/10, 1/125s, ISO 200, finished in Lightroom 5
How do you know which images will look good as black white? I think just about any good photograph can be a good black and white. It’s important to understand, however, that black and white doesn’t just mean we remove color from the equation. Some colors are lighter or darker toned, and these inherent tones affect the final black and white image.
Furthermore, ever since the earliest days of photography, different films and mediums have interpreted the colors themselves as a different tonal value. That means that the same red sweater shot with the same light and camera settings on two different brands of black and white film may appear totally different in each image. and to throw one more variable into the mix, a colored glass filter on the front of the lens also changes the interpretation of tones. This last is a powerful tool, and it’s built right into your camera. Shooting black and white with various color filters will help you see immediately how your image could look right on your LCD.
Look in your manual for the Monochrome settings (Canon: Picture Styles; Nikon: Set Picture Control). Don’t just choose Monochrome, however. Go deeper into the menu and find the filter effects. I use the yellow or red filter for portraits, and I may dabble with green for landscapes; I often prefer the red filter for photo walking, as well. The color filter you choose will lighten the tone of that color in your image, and darken it’s opposite (i.e., with a red filter, skin tones become lighter (pimples disappear) and blue skies turn black).
Remember, these are built-in digital filters so you don’t need to attach a glass filter to the front of the lens to get the effects. White balance affects the color of your picture, and it affects the black and white rendition, as well.
ATTENTION: if you shoot RAW, your images will appear black and white on the camera’s LCD but will be color on the computer. Shoot RAW +JPG if you want to keep the black and white images from the camera.
Rob Sylvan and Levi Sim will be doing a Google+ hangout on February 19th at 1pm Eastern (10am Pacific) to discuss how to finish great black and white images using Adobe Lightroom 5 (we’ll also share some organizational gems, so don’t miss it!). You can join the event here, and here are links to Levi and Rob.
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