70 Ways To Take Better Photos (Part 4) - Monochrome, Adjust colour channels

8/20/2012 2:45:25 PM


Get to know the pro

Name: Markus Hartel


Photographic specialism: Street photography

Improve your black-and-white images with guidance from this award-winning photographer.

Favourite subject to shoot in black and white? People and their environment

Natural light or controlled flash? Natural light, with fill-in flash

Preferred kit? Leica M9 with 28mm Elmarit lens

Mini bio: Markus was born in Germany and moved to the United States in 2002. He has been photographing the streets of New York City ever since. His award-winning work has been published internationally, he also runs black-and-white photography workshops

Markus’s suggestions for shooting B&W

Description: Markus’s suggestions for shooting B&W

Markus’s suggestions for shooting B&W

Find interesting light

Avoid flat lighting and avoid shooting in the midday sun. Find spots where there are interesting light and shadow details that bring out textures and patterns.

Shoot at nigh

The light, or lack thereof, is more dynamic and looks fantastic in black and white.

Use the right equipment

A calibrated computer monitor is a must if you intend to edit and print your black-and-white shots. It gives you more control over the final results as you can proof the prints.

Bring out the shadows

Check your levels for punchy blacks; it’s okay to block the shadows a little. When using levels in Photoshop, turn on the warning tool by pressing the Alt/Option key when moving the sliders.

Add in grain

Digital files look better with film grain imposed. In Photoshop, add in a grain layer and adjust the opacity. If you’re working in Lightroom, you can use the grain palette.

Shoot in RAW

Take your photos in RAW for more flexibility when shooting. You can adjust -1/3EV to protect the highlights in your exposure. Some camera models also allow for a black-and –whitte preview on the black LCD screen.

How to boost your shots

Enhance contrast

Black and white lends itself well to shooting abstract shapes. Compose your image and adjust your camera settings to bring out the unique dimensions using contrast.

Bring out texture

Considered a classic form of photography, black and white is particularly popular with street photography and portraiture. Find unique characters or older faces to photograph as black and white is great for bringing out texture within the skin.

Shoot in colour

Always shoot in colour, even though it’s contrary to your intent. This will give you more options when editing and more control over the outcome of your conversion.

Dodge and Burn

Edit your digital black and white image in the same way you would a film capture in the darkroom. Use the dodge and burn tools to make specific adjustments. Don’t forget, dodge is to lighten and burn is to darken.

Use coloured filters

Shoot with coloured filters to bring out tonal contrast; it’s a great way to halve your editing time. Use the red filter to enhance a dramatic sky and orange to get flawless skin.

Vignette the sides

Add a vignette around the edges of your frame to help contain the viewer’s eye within the image. This works particularly well if there are no clouds or areas of interest within the sky.

Adjust colour channels

Description: Adjust colour channels

Adjust colour channels

When converting to black & white in Photoshop, don’t just desaturate your shot. For more control, use the Convert to Black and White tool to adjust colour channels.

Reduce noise

Keep your ISO low when shooting for B&W. Noise is great way of adding texture, but it’s better done in Photoshop where you have more control.

Putting it into practice

1.    Settings

Shooting in the studio give you more control over the light and therefore the contrast in your image. Set up a still-life shot using just one key light to maximise your results.

2.    Setup

Description: Setup

Ensure your shutter speed is set to 1/125sec. You can the adjust your aperture to control more artistic results. If you’re working with a shallow depth of field, ensure your focus is sharp on your main subject.

3.    The results

Description: The results

Flowers make great black-and-white subjects whether you’re shooting an abstract image or a standard still life. The detail in their form can be brought out beautifully by simply controlling light and contrast.

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