Black & White With A Digital Camera
Concentrate on tonality for the best monochrome results
At its best, black-and-white photography is a true art form, as a glance at the works of its many masters demonstrates. Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, John Sexton, Robert Werling and William Garnett are some of my favorites, but there are many others. Study photo books of the masters' works, or better yet, visit a museum or photo gallery and enjoy their original prints. It's amazing what a talented photographer can do with just black, white and shades of gray.
Shooting in black-and-white can be a great learning experience, even if your lifelong ambition isn't to be the next Ansel Adams. While you can convert any color digital image in a black-and-white image using your image-editing software, shooting in black-and-white makes you think in black-and-white. You don't have colors at your disposal when shooting black-and-white; you have only black, white and shades of gray. You have to think about tones and light. It's a useful exercise.
Most of today's digital cameras can shoot black-and-white images. Different digital cameras have different names for black-and-white mode: monochrome, monotone and B&W are a few examples. One big advantage of shooting black-and-white digitally is that you can see the image in black-and-white on the camera's LCD monitor right after you shoot it. Film photographers who work in black-and-white have to judge from experience (or by using a "monochrome viewing filter") whether different-colored objects in a scene (such as red flowers against green leaves) will separate nicely or reproduce as about the same gray tone. Digital photographers can check the image on the spot and do something about it if adjustments need to be made (more on what to do about it in a bit).
With most cameras, you access black-and-white mode via the camera's LCD monitor menus. Once you've selected this mode, you can adjust sharpness and contrast, choose a filter effect or set a toning effect—all before you shoot. Sharpness and contrast adjustments generally let you choose a couple of steps each side of "normal." Filter effects include the filters commonly used in black-and-white photography: yellow (for a natural look), orange (for darker skies, handy when shooting a landscape with a partly cloudy sky), red (for dramatically dark skies) and green (for brighter foliage and stronger skin tones). Toning options generally include sepia, green, blue and purple.