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mollyc

macrumors 604
Original poster
Aug 18, 2016
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Welcome to our P52! This project is designed to get you out with your camera once a week in a meaningful way. Each week I will post a prompt for you to consider. The prompts are merely suggestions, and you are free to shoot off topic if you wish. All images posted must be taken by you, be safe for work, and be taken with this project in mind. Please do not post archive photos. For a further discussion of the guidelines, please refer to this thread, and you can find the previous weeks linked there if you missed them. Feel free to join in at any time of the year, and you may go back to missed weeks if you still wish to participate.


Week 12: Black and White

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Welcome to week twelve! This week we will be exploring black and white images. I admit that for many years I basically avoided bw images unless I had to minimize color casts or minimize other issues relating to color. Although I still generally prefer color images, I have really come to appreciate the way bw images bring out textures, shapes, and how black and white contributes to the mood of a photo.

Creating an image in color often relies on the color to tell part or much of the story. The color of light changes throughout the day, and even throughout the year. It’s important to learn to see the color of light as it affects the white balance of your images, and it can be used to shape how viewers feel about a photo; a warm yellow light might make a viewer feel nostalgic, or it might allude to long summer nights. When you strip out that warm tone, and you are left with just shades of gray, does the story still stand? Have you clearly identified your subject in a way that excluding color doesn’t matter? Does stripping away color serve to make your story stronger? These are things to think about when composing bw images.

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The big word for bw images is “contrast.” But what does that actually mean? Contrast comes from the range of lights to darks in your image. If you don’t have clearly identifiable highlights and shadows, you run the risk of an image becoming muddy, or all gray. Your image will feel flat and boring. Although you can add some contrast in post processing, you should ideally have a location that is naturally well lit; think of our shadow week as a good base foundation for creating bw images; if you have shadows in your image, you must have light as well; when you convert that shadow and light to bw, you will have a naturally contrasted image. And while it’s true that you might need to process a bit more after removing color to increase contrast, if you start your images with light and shadows your final image will be much stronger.

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It is hard at times to strip color out of an image as we are composing; humans are inherently drawn to color, and until you learn to see light/shadow intuitively, parsing one tone from another can be difficult. When I decided to really start working on bw images, I switched my camera to shoot in bw; by shooting a digital image in bw, you can see immediately if you have a good range of tonality through the EVF or live view. And if you are working with an older camera with a cumbersome live view, you can still see the image in camera for playback review and make adjustments as necessary. Shooting digital bw really helped me to see how bw worked within an image.

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Many people will tell you that the only way to really understand bw images is to shoot bw film. I now love to shoot bw film, but here’s the thing - the viewfinders of film cameras are still in color! The color is stripped from the film, but not from our eyes. We are still seeing the world in color when using bw film, so I did not find a huge leap in my bw work when starting to shoot bw film; it came from shooting digital and becoming familiar with how different colors render different tones and how to work those together.


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If you are using an iPhone, you can shoot natively in black and white open the Camera app, be sure the option bar is showing by clicking the white up arrow at the top of the screen. The arrow will turn yellow, and options will show at the bottom of the screen. Scroll over to the right, and click on the Filters tab, which looks like three interlocking circles. Black and white options will be all the way to the right of the list. Now your camera will show as black and white and you will be able to create bw images natively. I don’t use my phone camera very often, but here are some other tips for creating black and white images on a phone. Keep in mind, however, that if you shoot bw on your phone in the native Camera app, you will not be able to convert it back to color. So proceed with caution at this point; you might want to just to a walk around with your phone set to bw but actually shoot the image in color and then convert to bw when editing.

IMG_5309.PNG


When shooting digital images I don’t always shoot them natively in black and white, but I do still often do so as a good refresher to see how the tones render. Because I do use light and shadow in my work as standard practice, many of my photos easily convert to bw with little effort other than clicking a preset in LR. Here are things I look for when I decided to purposely shoot black and white:

  • Pockets of light, which give a natural highlight/shadow range
  • A contrast difference between subject and background; my dog Halley is a great subject to shoot in black and white because she is black and almost all backgrounds end up lighter than she is. However, placing her against a dark gray wall would make for a poor black and white conversion because they would blend together too much
  • Shapes
  • Textures; macro and close up images often translate well to bw
  • A strong light source with good light fall off to create shadows throughout the image
2023-03-19_0001.jpg



In terms of actually converting your images from color to bw, you will want to be sure to really nail your exposure; I see a lot of images that are relatively successful in color even if the exposure is a bit off because the color tells the story, but when converted they fall flat; often a simple exposure boost is enough to increase the overall contrast. In your editing program, I would encourage you to work the tone section and increase whites, decrease blacks, but make sure neither become clipped in the process. Although I edit in Lightroom, any photo editor should have a similar section. I often decrease highlights and increase shadows for my images to create a wider tonal range, but your editing process should be your own.

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Here is a great list of free editing programs for phone shooters if you need an external editor. I find Snapseed to be fairly intuitive and great for beginners, and I also like PicTapGo, which is not on this list. If you are using a big camera, then you should be able to easily convert to bw with your preferred editor.


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As a reminder, I will be traveling for the first half of the week. I will do my best to answer specific questions as I am able, but most likely I won't leave any feedback until Thursday. I would love it if you guys can respond to each other and offer CC when it is requested. Even if you don't have the technical know-how to answer a question, you have all shown to be respectful and encouraging, and I love that about this little project. Hopefully some of the more advanced photographers who are participating can help out with feedback this week, but I will be sure to catch up with you all on Thursday.

Have fun!
 

katbel

macrumors 68040
Aug 19, 2009
3,299
28,420
Welcome to our P52! This project is designed to g...


As a reminder, I will be traveling for the first half of the week. I will do my best to answer specific questions as I am able, but most likely I won't leave any feedback until Thursday. I would love it if you guys can respond to each other and offer CC when it is requested. Even if you don't have the technical know-how to answer a question, you have all shown to be respectful and encouraging, and I love that about this little project. Hopefully some of the more advanced photographers who are participating can help out with feedback this week, but I will be sure to catch up with you all on Thursday.

Have fun!
Have a safe / fun trip! And don't worry for us, we'll manage...probably..🙃
 
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r.harris1

macrumors 68020
Feb 20, 2012
2,188
12,623
Denver, Colorado, USA
I love black and white. Note this doesn't translate to "I'm good at it" :) but I enjoy it a great deal. I remember seeing Ansel Adams' "Clearing Winter Storm" in the 80s, just after his death, and just being gob-smacked. I have his "trilogy" of books: "The Camera", "The Negative" and "The Print". Exceptional. If you have a couple of hours (yes, I know it's hard :)) I'd recommend this B&H class on B&W by Eileen Rafferty -
- she's a great instructor, for me. It's about seeing.
 
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katbel

macrumors 68040
Aug 19, 2009
3,299
28,420
View attachment 2175987

One of my favorite black and white subjects, taken yesterday, a local roller coaster near my home. With filtering of red, it definitely pops against a blue sky. I'll do a better composition later this week. I've been out with the wrong lenses this weekend for whatever reason.
Could you mix horizontal and vertical pano? The tree is missing its tip or someone needed a Xmas tree 😉
if not it would be perfect!
 
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katbel

macrumors 68040
Aug 19, 2009
3,299
28,420
I love black and white. Note this doesn't translate to "I'm good at it" :) but I enjoy it a great deal. I remember seeing Ansel Adams' "Clearing Winter Storm" in the 80s, just after his death, and just being gob-smacked. I have his "trilogy" of books: "The Camera", "The Negative" and "The Print". Exceptional. If you have a couple of hours (yes, I know it's hard :)) I'd recommend this B&H class on B&W by Eileen Rafferty -
- she's a great instructor, for me. It's about seeing.
Not a fan till today of B&W but this project is challenging and you gave us a good tip 💗
I will look at the video, thanks, after everyone is asleep and it's calm all around.
 

katbel

macrumors 68040
Aug 19, 2009
3,299
28,420
Totally, and great point! Yes, there are many challenges with the composition. I'll get out there and recompose sometime this week with a different lens, for sure. :)
I was asking you because this morning my sunrise pano has a tree missing its tip too and noticed the same issue
 
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r.harris1

macrumors 68020
Feb 20, 2012
2,188
12,623
Denver, Colorado, USA
I was asking you because this morning my sunrise pano has a tree missing its tip too and noticed the same issue
One of the things I struggle with is seeing the whole composition when photographing. It's one of the things I hope to get out of P52, which is to see the whole composition. I'm currently not good at it at all. For example, in the Pano P52 theme this week for my one image, I totally missed the upper right because I was focusing on the broom, dustpan and the stuff on the left and even mid, lower right. I should always be looking at the whole image. I'm not so good now, I hope to be better by the end of this year. At least somewhat :D.
 

mollyc

macrumors 604
Original poster
Aug 18, 2016
7,783
46,857
wow i'm already behind and i haven't even left yet. excellent participation everyone.

i'm hoping to shoot a roll of bw on thursday/friday, but we'll see what the weather is like. right now there's not much compelling to shoot 38 frames of.
 
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bondr006

macrumors 68020
Jun 8, 2010
2,453
16,151
Cary, NC - My Name is Rob Bond
wow i'm already behind and i haven't even left yet. excellent participation everyone.

i'm hoping to shoot a roll of bw on thursday/friday, but we'll see what the weather is like. right now there's not much compelling to shoot 38 frames of.
Durham has a lot of photo opportunities, starting with the Duke campus. It is massive and historical. I am sure you'll find lots of great B+W shots. Have fun and be safe Molly.:)
 

_timo_redux_

macrumors 6502a
Dec 13, 2022
961
13,838
New York City
One of the things I struggle with is seeing the whole composition when photographing. It's one of the things I hope to get out of P52, which is to see the whole composition. I'm currently not good at it at all. For example, in the Pano P52 theme this week for my one image, I totally missed the upper right because I was focusing on the broom, dustpan and the stuff on the left and even mid, lower right. I should always be looking at the whole image. I'm not so good now, I hope to be better by the end of this year. At least somewhat :D.
One strategy is to check the frame's edges. Set you sight on your subject, but then sweep each side looking what's at the edges (and maybe shouldn't be.)
 

mollyc

macrumors 604
Original poster
Aug 18, 2016
7,783
46,857
But there is no food in the fridge.... what will we eat? 😂 😂
Luckily my husband survived more than 30-some years without me, so I think he'll be okay for two and a half days. 😉

(but don't worry, I did buy him a few things to tide him over)
 
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