Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Power of Color in Black and White Photos

Black and white photography can produce some captivating and artistic photos. By removing color from the image you emphasize the tonality, geometric shapes, and composition of the photo. Of course, not all images work in black and white. A brilliant sunset loses its a beauty when all the color is removed. I find converting an image to black and white to be a fun creative challenge that can result in an image to be proud of.

Most digital cameras and even some cell phones can take photos in black and white. If you let your camera do the conversion to black and white it will store the image without the color information. You have now limited your ability to adjust the image later.  My suggestion is to always capture your images in color and convert to black and white in post processing.  Here's why.

The best way to explain what I am talking about is by showing an example.  The video below shows how powerful the color information is behind a black and white photo.

I hope that video is helpful.  Making videos is new for me and was a little intimidating.  I think I need some practice.

Here are some more examples of converting a color photo to black and white.

Sample Number One - Street Portrait

I made this photo of Carrington Kay at the Music On The Square in Jonesborough TN. I wasn't in a great position to make photos and was more interested in enjoying the music anyway. The musicians were in the shade but the background building was still in the sun. I edited the color version to deemphasize the background and focus on the two individuals, however, the red brick still grabs your attention more than I wanted it to.
I used Lightroom to convert the image to black and white using the color sliders like I did in the video. The red brick wall no longer grabs the viewers attention allowing the musicians to be what your eye sees first.

Converted to BW in Lightroom
Click on the first image to zoom in then use the right and left arrow keys to flip through the different versions to see the differences in each.

Sample Number Two - Dull Sunrise

I said earlier that sunrises or sunsets are not typically what I would convert to black and white. In the example below the sunrise colors were very muted.  In fact, there is very little color in this image.
Fuji Provia Profile
When you shoot color in RAW format you can apply camera profiles later in Lightroom. In this example, I used a profile that simulates the Fuji Acros B&W film.  Applying this profile also changes the contrast and introduces simulated grain to make the digital image appear as if it was shot on Fuji Acros B&W film.

Fuji Acros Profile
By converting this image to B&W I removed the color distractions and emphasized the repeating patterns and composition. The surface of the water was blurred by using a 9-second exposure.

I really like the Acros profile and it's easy to apply in Lightroom.  If I don't like the result, it is easy to switch back to the default Provia color profile.

Sample Number Three- Timeless Scene

One more example of converting a color image to black and white.  In this case, the crisp color image appeared too new for the subject, which looked like it was set in the 1950s.  
Produce Stand in Color
 By converting to B&W the resulting image fits better with the subject.
Converted to BW in Lightroom
There are a number of ways to convert a color image to black and white.  I have shown you two ways in Lightroom. Other tools I use are Silver Efex Pro 2 from Google (Nik) and On1 Photo RAW.

Converted to BW in Silver Efex Pro 2 High Structure (Harsh) preset.

Converted to BW in On1 Photo RAW 2017 - Black & White Rugged Preset
These are just a few tools available for converting to B&W. There is an infinite number of ways to adjust an image when converting.  How you convert your photos is up to you. Use your creativity to express yourself and tell a story with your photos. Just make sure you capture the image in your camera, in color, preferably in RAW format.

Do you find these blog posts worth the time it takes to read them? Is there something you would like to see on the blog? Send me a note and give me some feedback.  I really do appreciate the feedback.

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