Home How-To Shooting Seeing In Black & White
Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Seeing In Black & White

Create striking monochromatic images from your color digital photos


A black-and-white image isn't merely about the colors black and white, but the varying shades that lay between the darkest and brightest elements of a scene. A challenge that you'll encounter when shooting a scene is how individual colors translate to monochrome. Blues and yellows will be rendered as dark gray and light gray, respectively, because the camera is recording the varying degrees by which individual colors reflect light. Red and green, which look markedly different in a color image, appear as a similar shade of gray because they reflect virtually the same amount of light.

Learning how to evaluate a scene for various tones rather than color comes with time and practice. Digital cameras with their LCDs offer an easy way to hone this skill.

The Simple Way
One of the easiest ways to create a monochromatic image is in-camera. Put the camera in its black-and-white mode, and it automatically captures a monochromatic image that you can evaluate on the camera's LCD. This is an indispensable learning tool that helps you make the transition from color photography simple.

When the digital camera takes a black-and-white image, it still utilizes the red, green and blue pixels on its CCD, creating an image that has three identical grayscale channels. By shooting with the digital camera's black-and-white mode, you quickly get a sense of how individual colors translate to black-and-white. You'll also learn how contrasting tones, not merely the extremes of black and white, can become the key element in a photograph.

Another quick way to get black-and-white photos is with the Saturation tool in your image-editing software. Go to Image > Adjustments > Hue > Saturation, and move the Saturation slider to the extreme left, eliminating all color data. The result is a black-and-white image in which the red, green and blue channels are identical. While easy, it may not provide the best image possible. Since you might want to emphasize certain tones, you could use a conversion tool that gives you the ability to emphasize other color channels for more control.

 

 


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