Looking through the colour

The majority of my photographs end up as black and white. I also shoot RAW which means that I have the full information of the scene I took with the image file. This means that I can dodge and burn, enhance or reduce until I get the final image that I require.
The initial step of taking a good black and white, however, is the pre-visualization of the scene itself before you even take the photograph. Post-processing (P&P) can hone your vision for the image, but if the basic material, in other words, the different tones of the scene are flawed in some way then no amount of P&P will help. There are obviously no colours in the monochrome photograph and so the tones together with texture will help to clarify the different areas of the image.

If you’re new to black and white photography or find it difficult to previsualize the greyscale tones that will appear once a colour RAW is converted, then there is a way to check what your photograph will look like.

On the Fuji camera that I use, all you have to do is ensure that you have chosen one of the black and white or Acros modes in the Film Simulation section of the camera menu. As long as you are shooting RAW then you will see the black and white version of the scene as you look through the viewfinder or rear screen but the file saved on the camera will be RAW colour. Of course, you could also set the camera to save a jpg with the RAW and so you will get a monochrome jpg to compare with your colour RAW.

The following three images show the tones and details that are available if black and white is done carefully with a full awareness of the tonal range, detail and luminance in a scene.

Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF35mm F/2 R WR

This first image was taken low down and focussing on the glasses in the foreground. A wide aperture, F/2, was set ensure that the background became soft.

Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF35mm F/2 R WR

In this photograph, I wanted to ensure that the window was not burnt out and retained a little detail. I also wanted the light from the window to be the light for the scene dropping across the pianoforte.

Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF35mm F/2 R WR

The final picture is a landscape taken across a hillside with a forbidding sky just beginning to come across the horizon. It was taken at F/13 to get as much of the scene in focus as possible. It was important that the darkening sky was in contrast with the sea of grass at the front. There was still patches sunlight coming through the clouds lighting up patches on the grass.



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