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Digital Black and White
December 30, 2008 - Dave Hecei
Digital cameras have help transform photography and photographers. No longer do we need to buy film and pay for processing. Digital is instant and with the amazing storage capacities of today’s memory cards, we can take thousands of images instead of maybe a few hundred. While most photographers will shoot in color, why not start thinking, and seeing, in black and white.
There are many ways to shoot black and white images with a DSLR. You can simply shoot away and then turn your color photos into black and white images in your favorite image editing program, like Photoshop CS3 or Photoshop Elements. Some DSLRs even have a black and white setting. Using this setting, you can shoot black and white in a more traditional method. This allows you to use the proper filters just as you would with film. These are yellow, orange, and red – to increase contrast of sky and clouds – or greens for portraits or landscapes – helps skin tones or change contrast of foliage.
If you want to do your work in the computer, then it is best to shoot in color. For the most control, and if your camera has the capability, you will want to shoot in RAW mode. In RAW mode, the camera will transfer the image data from the sensor to memory without any post processing. Usually, images you shoot are processed by the camera, which corrects color tone, according to the white balance, and compresses the image to the JPEG format. RAW images are unprocessed allowing you much more control when converting to black and white.
Let’s say that you use Photoshop Elements to edit your images. There are several ways to convert a color image to black and white. First is just to remove the color information, or desaturate the image. This turns the image into a grayscale image. This is fast and will give you so-so results. Usually the images will look bland or they just won’t have that crisp look of a good black and white image.
There are better ways to get a black and white image. Elements 6, and the new version 7, has an Enhance menu where you can choose Convert to Black and White. Here you will be presented a box with a before and after image. There are sliders near the bottom that allow you to adjust the RED, GREEN, and BLUE layers along with a contrast slider. Having these sliders and the after preview window allow you to really customize the look of your image.
No matter how you make your black and white images, the important part is to start thinking and seeing in black and white. There really is something special, maybe eternal, about a great black and white image. Maybe it’s because that’s where photography began.
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