Yesterday I did some photos in Black and White and added a touch of colour. It was a fun process to do and I think the images came out well. I know there are many people in photography that think black and white is the only way to go, there are others who think most images look better in black and white, then there are some of us who think it depends on the image.
I am not going to get into an argument about what is best, it is purely a personal thing. However, having said that, I know there are many images that could be great black and white images, but due to the processing they aren’t. Again, I know this can be a very personal thing, so all I can do is talk about what I think. You can all have your say in the comments section.
Today I had a comment from someone wanting to know about how I did the photos yesterday. It was an interesting comment, and I remembered that I had done posts on this in the past. I did a tutorial on doing Black and White photos in GIMP, Black and White in GIMP – My Way and then I did one on Black and White Conversions. It is a very subjective subject and I thought I might tackle it again, especially since I wrote the latter over two years ago.
I think black and white images can be very dramatic, but they can also be boring, and it really depends on your subject matter. I have always felt that your subject matter should determine which images should be made into monotone or duotone images. Does it enhance the image more, if the colour is gone does the image miss something? There are so many questions, but you have to answer those. In the end it is your image and has to be what you want.
However, having said that, there are still ways of taking a photo that would be great in black and white and then making it look horrible. When I wrote the article on conversions it was because I was seeing so many black and white images on the internet that had a lot of potential, but they hadn’t been processed right.
Many cameras now can take black and white images for you, it is not something I have ever done. I like to take all my photos in colour, and then decide once I get them on the computer if I will make them black and white. I like to have that choice, but I know many photographers that just shoot in B&W, again it is a personal choice.
Once the image is on the computer there are many ways to make it black and white. You can convert it to grey scale (if you do this, you won’t be able to use colour in the image, unless you save it, then convert it back to RGB), you can completely desaturate your image, or if you have Photoshop you can use the black and white adjustment layer. I like the last option because then you have the choice to play with the tones of each colour, not sure that is the right way of putting it.
There is something that a lot people do to their images, or don’t do, and that is look at the contrast. The contrast is the different between the darks and lights in your images, or the black and whites and everything in between.
When I started photography, I started with black and white, and developed my own films, and then printed them. I converted my laundry into a darkroom that could only be used at night. It worked, and I spent many evenings in there working on my images. I was given some advice from another photographer that said, “make sure there is a black in your image, and there is a white. He suggested using a piece of white paper and a piece of black to help make sure I had those. It is good to also have the greys in between.
You don’t want the image to be just black and white, that would be horrible, but you want a range of tones from black to white. When I was at art school and drawing, I can remember my lecturers telling me that my drawings had no contrast, I didn’t know what they were talking about, now I do, the drawings had no darks, and they were very grey. I worked it out eventually and my drawings got a lot better.
Photography is the same, if you don’t have that contrast, the images can look washed out if there are no blacks, or too dark if there are no whites. It is a good thing to remember.
So how do you like your black and white images? What is your favourite subject for those images? Lastly, what do you use to process them?
Here is a little gallery of the images if you want a better look at them.