Think Different; Shoot in Monochrome Mode

by | Apr 16, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Life is in color but black and white is more realistic” – Samuel Fuller

When I’m in a rut, I shoot monochrome images to help me get out of one. These were some of the thoughts that were going through my mind when I was working on my next post for my photography how-to blog One of the things that I like to do to get out of a rut is shooting some photographs in direct monochrome mode. It doesn’t have to be all of the images maybe just a few that I shoot that day or during a portrait session to, you know, see what happens.

How I made this shot: The Saab Sonett was manufactured between 1955 and 1957 and again between 1966 and 1974. I photographed this Sonett II (please correct me if I’m wrong about the model) at an event in Vail, Colorado. This may or may not have been a car that I was once trying to buy. (A sad story for another time.) It was photographed using a Canon EOS 40D and EF 10-22mm EF-S f/3.5-4.5 lens (at 17mm) with an exposure of 1/100 sec at f/14 and ISO 200. The original color JPEG file was converted to monochrome using Exposure X5. you think shooting in direct monochrome mode is a bad idea because you worry what might happen if, at some later date, you change your mind and want that original to be in color? Most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras have a RAW+JPEG option that lets you capture a monochrome (JPEG) and color (RAW) file at the same time. Some dual-slot DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, even let you simultaneously save each file type onto a different memory card.

If you prefer to capture in color and convert to monochrome later in the digital darkroom that’s another option and is something that I often do with portraits. The biggest differences for portraiture is that all of my favorite retouching tools, such as Imagenomics’ Portraiture, work better with a color (RAW or JPEG) file than with a monochrome image. That’s when I’ll use the RAW file, retouch it, then convert to monochrome using Silver Efex Pro or Exposure X5.

Tip: Another great idea to prevent your photography from becoming stagnant is to make a new photograph each day. This is actually harder to do that it sounds, especially these days, but give it a try, even if you miss a day or two.


My book Creative Digital Monochrome Effects is still available from Amazon and (I think, anyway) is a fun read. There’s even a chapter on infrared photography. It’s available from them for $33.63 but bargain shoppers can pick up used copies starting at $2.07. No Kindle version is available at this time, sorry to say.