Looking Good in Black and White

by | Jun 23, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Proving you can change your tune, Paul Simon changed the lyrics to his song Kodachrome to “everything looked better in black & white” when performing the song in Central Park in 1991. Lately I’ve noticed a trend. Even though only some of each month’s posts were about black and white photography, it turned out that these were the most popular posts.

How I made this shot: This image of Shelby Mustang that I call “Film Noir Mustang” was captured in color at a Cars and Coffee event in Parker, Colorado. Camera used was a Panasonic Lumix GX85 with Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens at 12mm. Image was processed in Exposure Software’s Exposure X5 and tweaked further in Color Efex Pro. Yes, I know the photo’s supposed to be black and white but there is some warm tones going on here.

And I can understand why. Sometimes color confuses a viewer by taking the focus away from the photograph’s real subject. Some black and white images, such as landscapes and maybe some cars, seem to have more drama when seen in monochrome. With a blue sky, like we get in Colorado 300 days a year, clouds can “pop” adding a more exciting look.

There are many ways that you can black & white digital photographs. You can capture images the same way you do now in color and convert the image file into monochrome later using software such as Silver Efex Pro or Alien Skin’s Exposure, as I did with today’s featured image.

You can also shoot black & white images directly in-camera. Almost all DSLRs and mirrorless cameras offer monochrome modes and even toning effects when you shoot in direct black and white and you can see how it looks while making the image. Here’s an old tip: Shoot in RAW+JPEG mode so you still have a color file, if you change your mind later.

When shooting RAW+JPEG the instant feedback of seeing the images in monochrome helps focuses your vision and also lets you show your subject what you’re trying to accomplish. You don’t have to explain how you’ll convert the shot into monochrome later; it’s already there on the LCD screen! (And with mirrorless cameras, in the viewfinder too.) This approach provides an immediacy to the process and you can make B&W prints using a PictBridge printer or drop your memory cards off at a local Target because capturing the file in black and white saves time.



My book Creative Digital Monochrome Effects is available new from Amazon for $31.90 and used for the bargain price around two bucks, cheaper than your next coffee at a Starbucks drive-through. There’s even a chapter on infrared photography, if you want to give that genre a try. There’s no Kindle version at the time, sorry.