Take photos in black or white or convert afterwards?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by timmyb, Oct 22, 2008.

  1. timmyb macrumors 6502

    Feb 2, 2005
    United Kingdom
    What is the difference between taking a photo with the camera set for B&W and taking a photo in colour, then editing it in to B&W afterwards? Will the image quality differ?
  2. valdore macrumors 65816


    Jan 9, 2007
    Kansas City, Missouri. USA
    You have more creative control by doing it yourself on the computer, as far as adjusting color channels.

    If you shoot RAW, then you'll have to do this anyway, as at least when I shot both BW and RAW at the same time, the photos all showed up in color when I uploaded them to the computer anyway, so it's all in the post-processing for me at least.
  3. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2002
    Where am I???
    Yes, there is a massive difference.

    When you "shoot in B&W", you are letting the camera decide how to translate the colour information into a shade of gray. By shooting RAW (or even colour JPEG), you retain that decision until later.

    One of the most common things I like to do in B&W is to really deepen the colour of the sky in landscape shots. I do it by selectively reducing the luminance of the blues in the colour original. If I shoot in B&W, this colour information is gone.

    I would suggest never shooting in B&W in the camera; no sense throwing information away.
  4. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Assuming you have a "standard" digital camera, the difference is only in where the conversion is done. If it is done on the computer and you shot in RAW format then using Photoshop or Aperture then you have much more input on exactly how the conversion is done. It is like gettingto choose the filter after taking the exposure If you shoot color JPG in the camera then you have lass post processing options.

    Some people have their comaras converted by removing the color filter. Then you have a pure B&W camera that can olso do IR.

    The best option is to shoot film. The dynamic range and tone of film is still the best and it's "full frame". Cost is "way cheap" compared to digital. It can buy a good film body for under $100 and the film itself can be very inexpensive
  5. pna macrumors 6502

    May 27, 2005
    This is completely true. My only problem shooting black and white film the past five years has been that I have yet to find a place that made quality prints. The black and white prints I've gotten have been horrifically flat, with effectively no contrast compared with how I'd print them myself. Do you have a good outfit to do your black and white processing and printing that you can recommend?
  6. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    Shooting B&W film requires two decisions that affect the outcome considerably- a decision that you don't have to make until you go to convert a digital image- film type can have drastic results, and film developer can have as drastic results, neither of which you can "do over" as you can in digital. T-grain emulsion, non-T grain emulsion? High or low actuence developer? Staining or non-staining developer? Once you make the choice, you're going to have a base image that has a certain printing latitude, tonal range, grain structure and overall look- and if you're scanning, even less leeway.

    Worse-yet, if you're not doing your own development (where cost is really time) then you don't have any of the developer choices, and that could be even worse.

    As far as dynamic range- you're looking at 6-8 stops for most B&W film by the time you get to a print - about what you'll see from most modern digital cameras- without blocked highlights and muddy shadows if you chose the wrong film or developer. You may do better with a scan, but in terms of what people are used to seeing in fine art photographic prints, digital will get you to the same basic place much more easily and without worrying about the right film, the right developer, or the right development time.

    No more roll film blues from having the wrong speed film in the camera as well.

    As far as "full frame" goes, I've never had a print remain unbought because someone said "Hey! That looks like it was shot on APS-C!" In fact, I regularly enlarge APS-C digital images beyond the 8x10 that I'd max out a film print at in the darkroom (again, scans may get you further these days, but apples-to-apples, digital wins- lugging around MF cameras to be able to go to large sizes was a hobby.)

    Finally, if you're not buying all the equipment, chemicals and doing your own development, no more "the lab screwed it up!" or "it was lost in the mail!" Trust me, the chance of finding a B&W lab locally that's not going to mail it all out is getting lower and lower.

    Here's a pretty good take on things:

  7. notjustjay macrumors 603


    Sep 19, 2003
    Canada, eh?
    You can always add effects later in Photoshop. You can't ever take effects away.

    So I always shoot in regular modes at a reasonably high resolution. You never know what you might want to do with that photo later.
  8. rogersmj macrumors 68020


    Sep 10, 2006
    Indianapolis, IN
    Exactly. Never do in-camera processing. Capture as much data as possible, preserve it, then do the editing on a computer. Whenever someone touts a new camera to me because it can do some crazy editing effect right in the camera itself, I just shake my head.

    Aside from destroying data when you do in-camera effects, which would you rather have doing the rendering: your multi-thousand dollar computer or the relatively cheap processor-wannabe in your camera?

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