Shooting in the Washington, D.C. area, visiting museums, I found myself drawn to images that were generated out of the great architecture that has been created to house our Capitol’s wonderful collection of museums. Lots of these images turned out to be still life in nature, details that emphasized the form, shape and light that I was finding interesting. Then it came to me: I should make this a series of black and white images.
Black and White: we have a choice now, in this digital age, don’t we? Not long ago, we shot either black and white or color film, making a decision on the front end of the creative process that we never questioned down the line. In fact, deciding to shoot black and white impacted the way we ‘saw’ images from the beginning: form and shades of gray and composition took complete precedence over color when you knew you had black and white film loaded in the camera.
Nowadays this isn’t so obvious or so easy. Usually we walk around with the RGB default version of reality dialed in with our digital cameras, and at least for me, in my brain. The decision to make it a ‘black and white day’ is rarely made in advance. Today I stumbled upon this realization—that today’s images should be processed as black and white—late in the day, after I had done most of the shooting.
I was in the Hirshhorn Museum, shooting up at an interesting composition of lights, railings and short half-walls, when I realized I was really looking at a color, black and white photograph. Immediately I realized that most of my photographs from today would work better as black and white. I made the leap, and here are the results.
Incidentally, if you’re going to do color/grayscale conversions in Photoshop, you owe it to yourself to learn to do them using the Adjustment Layers flavor of black and white. I’ve written about how to utilize adjustment layers elsewhere on this blog, so I won’t go into detail about it here. But it’s clearly a superior way to work on black and white versions of your images. I find the Yellow and Red channels provide most of the control over tone, along with Blue and Cyan to a lesser degree.
So what about you? Do you ever shoot straight-up black and white anymore? When/how do you decide to convert an image to black and white? If so, which conversion method in Photoshop is your favorite?
Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog