Black and White Photography Uses

Black and White Photography Uses

Actually, the process of shooting black and white photos with a digital camera is no different from shooting color pictures and shooting on film. Nobody canceled the laws of light. You just need to learn to see the world in black and white. Such understanding comes only with experience, when you shoot a lot on black and white film. This experience is much more difficult to achieve with digital cameras these days. At one time, about thirty-five years ago, I learned about a special survey filter “panvision”. This filter is magenta in color. When viewed through it, the filter changes the color sensitivity of the eye so that it is close to the tone rendition of black and white film without a filter. That is, when you look through it, you just see a black and white photograph. It was necessary to look through this filter, not remove it. But I never managed to hold it in my hands.

Speaking of recording an image, in the camera settings, you should immediately disable the option “Shooting in black and white”. And shoot only in color, in RAW format, or at least in JPEG. You will understand why this is so in this small series of articles on digital black and white photography.

A few words about filters

The use of most filters in modern digital photography differs significantly from their use in classic black and white photography. And although some light filters are not used at all in digital photography, understanding how they work when shooting on black and white film helps to imagine how the image will look after it has been converted to black and white using software methods.

For example, an orange filter darkens blue and purple. This filter makes the clouds stand out against the sky very well. Well suited for nude photography in daylight. This is perhaps the most common filter used by photographers shooting on black and white film.

The top image was taken without a filter, the bottom one was taken with a dark orange. While I was putting on the orange filter, the clouds shifted slightly to the left, this can be seen in the second frame.

But color filters designed for black and white film photography are not suitable for shooting with modern digital cameras. Even if you shoot in RAW, the image comes out with a strong tint of the filter itself. This turns out to be a serious limitation when further converting the image to black and white. In addition, it will be almost impossible to return to the color version of photography. If the shooting is carried out only in the JPEG format (in the “black and white shooting” mode), then there is no chance of getting a color photo at all, since the camera will save only a black and white image. There are many more creative techniques for converting a color digital image to black and white, not using a camera, but using various RAW converters or Photoshop.

Another reason why color filters are not suitable for black and white digital photography is the design of the camera sensor. Typically, a Bayer lattice is used in the matrix design. In it, two pixels register the luminance values of the green color, and one at a time – red and blue. That is, when shooting through a color filter, it will block certain colors. The use of a red or blue filter will mean that only three quarters of the matrix pixels are registered, and with a green filter, the working pixels will be half as much. This is enough to significantly degrade the image quality and lead to various artifacts in smooth tonal areas such as the sky.

An exception is the UV filter, which is also used in color photography. In addition to blur, it also removes bluish tints, especially in the highlands.

If we talk about other filters, then almost all of them can be used. However, with some reservations.

Neutral filters

As the name suggests, these filters do not change the spectral composition of light. They are used in both black and white and color photography, and are only used to increase exposure.ui. Imagine you want to shoot a fountain so that the water doesn’t look “frozen” due to a short shutter speed, but it is important to maintain the same depth of field. The light is quite bright and the shutter speed at 22 aperture is 1/30 of a second. Putting on a ND filter with a factor of 8 (3 stops), we get a pair of 22 – 1/4 second. As a result, the water will be perfectly lubricated. The use of filters of high magnification (60–10000) will allow, for example, to photograph a crowded city square in daylight as if there was no one on it. At a shutter speed of 30–120 minutes, all moving objects on the film simply will not appear, since they move too quickly relative to the exposure time. It is still impossible to shoot at a figure with such an exposure.

The picture was taken with a ND filter, which made it possible to increase the shutter speed. Due to the relatively long shutter speed (4 seconds), the water is blurry.

Polarizing Filters

For color photography, it is often important to get a richer sky or remove bright highlights on water. For this, a polarizing filter is used. However, there is always a risk that such a photo, after being converted to black and white, will become boring and lifeless. In addition, after converting the image to black and white, pronounced stripes may appear in the sky. So if you plan to end up with black and white photography, shoot with or without a polarizing filter. Or simply take takes at different angles of rotation of the polarizing filter.

Since both polarizing and ND filters increase exposure, be prepared to use a tripod in most cases.

Both images were converted to black and white using the Black & White command in Photoshop. Unfortunately, in the first image of this pair, the sky has become somewhat striped in the upper left corner. In order to avoid “banding” in such areas, the image should be converted to black and white at 16 bits per channel.

If the shooting was carried out from a tripod, during processing, you can make combinations of shooting takes with different angles of rotation of the polarizing filter and, thereby, achieve reflections and highlights in certain parts of the image so that it meets the artistic intent.

Brief conclusion

If you plan to convert a color digital image to black and white, you cannot use the color filters for classic black and white photography.
You should also avoid using conversion and color enhancing filters.
Polarizing filters should be used based on specific applications.
Various ND filters and any attachments can be used without restrictions.
When using any filters, the following rule must be observed: the effect of the filter should not overwhelm the content of the photo.
This is the main rule when using any filters.

Converting color originals to black and white

Before converting color images to black and white, full retouch should be done if necessary. Despite the fact that almost all RAW converters can be quite flexible in converting a color photo to black and white, there is a significant category of images for which the RAW converter settings and tools are not enough. When to carry out toning also depends on the image itself. For some I do toning before converting to black and white, for others after. If before, then at the final stage, sometimes a small ton-correction follows again. In the RAW converter, you can immediately observe the process of converting to black and white image and tone correction.

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