Post & Photo by Joe Farace – Follow Joe on Twitter
Proper exposure of your in-camera monochrome image is important, especially for in-camera toned images because changes in exposure affect the density of colors (or lack of color) and overall style of the final image. How to obtain proper exposure is covered in lots of photography publications, such as “The Kodak Most Basic Book of Digital Photography” but in the meantime here’s a quick review as it applies to monochrome image capture.
The latitude (the ability to over or underexpose) a photograph is greatest with color negative film. Slide film has the least amount of latitude, especially overexposure. Correct exposure is more critical for digital capture than film because digital sensors respond more like a hybrid of the two different kinds of film: Over exposure wipes out image data but the underexposure side of digital capture has more latitude. The downside of underexposure is the inevitable creation of digital noise, what you might see in a photograph that appears to be digital “grain.” As in all forms of photography, the secret to maximize digital image quality is to properly expose the image.
One way to critically evaluate exposure is by using the camera’s built-in histogram function. A histogram is a graphical representation of a photograph’s exposure values from darkest shadows (left) to brightest highlights (right) and displays light values in 256 steps. Zero represents pure black and 255 is pure white or the classic “Polar Bear in a Snowstorm.” In the middle are mid-range values representing grays, browns, and greens. All of an image’s tones are captured when the graph rises from the bottom left corner then descends towards the bottom right. If it starts out too far in from either side or the slope appears cut off, then the file is missing data and the scene’s contrast range may exceed the camera’s capabilities. Tip: While the classic histogram features a bell-shaped (Gaussian) curve, not every photograph fits this distribution. Dramatic high or low-key images typically have lopsided histograms.
Joe Farace is the author of “Creative digital Monochrome Effects” from Lark Books. It’s available in all the best bookstores as well as Amazon.com.
This post sponsored by X-Rite – Stop Guessing – Start Knowing – New ColorMunki Display & i1Display Pro
Copyright Josh Bradley
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a guest post by – Josh Bradley – Follow Josh on Twitter
Black and White is a style that I have more and more fallen in love with over the past few months. To throw fuel on the fire of that obsession is my favorite B&W conversion program Nik’s Silver Efex Pro. It is my main stay for all conversions into B&W and will stay that way for a long time to come. The image you see of Tony Llanes of Big Electric Cat, was taken at Alan Hess and Scott Diussa’s “Real World Concert Photography Pre-con.” The shot in color really did nothing for me it just didn’t pop. Some of the lighting washed over Tony and the rest of the image and just made it a “shot” for me. But, I started to think what would it look like in B&W with a bunch of punch to it? The result is what you see here.
I should note that before I dove into Silver Efex Pro I dropped the image into Dfine 2.0 to eliminate the bit of noise I had from shooting at 2200 ISO on my D700.
Copyright Josh Bradley
Using Silver Efex Pro is an easy painless process if you have never used it, and if you haven’t I highly suggest you try. To finish this image once inside Silver Efex was literally a matter of seconds. A quick word of advice when using Silver Efex Pro is to check the Presets that Silver Efex’s gives you when you open up your image inside of it. Seeing the different effects already applied to your image can help spur some creative juices, and speed you on your way to finishing.
So to finish this image I did a couple of things. After looking at the presets I liked how the high contrast look effected the image. It gave it some pop on the brighter areas and darkened out some of the background and areas that had less detail, so adjusting the Contrast Slider up to 30% took care of the first part. Next I played with the Brightness slider to help drop out the back ground even more. I settled on -5% on Brightness. Next up I played with the Structure Slider to get some hard edges in the lit areas. Set the Structure slider to 20% to finish that portion off.
At this point some people would stop and call it good, but I really wanted this image to pop so I dove into the Color FIlters to see if that last bit of pop I wanted could be found there. I cycled through the filters and had to choose between the Red and Yellow filters. Both filters provided similar effects on the skin tones, but the Red filter on the clothes just didn’t pop very much, so I chose the Yellow filter for the High Key effect that it had on the skin and the extra touch of highlights on the clothes. I set the Yellow filter strength slider up to 106%, hit OK, and the image is ready to go.
This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store