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For the Photographer in You - Converting Images to Black and White

Let's look at a few things to consider when you want to create black and white photographs from images you captured in color.

Converting the image without taking into account the colors and subject of interest can result in images that appear washed out or lacking tonal range.

It seems strange to consider color when the final result will be black and white, but that is exactly what is needed.  Color filters can be used in from of the lens to selectively block some colors while allowing others to pass through.  Filters are named after the hue of the color which they pass, not the one that they block.  Filters also exist in post production software such as Photoshop and it is enlightening to play with the filters to notice exactly which filters enhance the subject from the background and enhance texture and which help the subject to blend in more.  In general, the filter that increases contrast will strengthen the image and this is done by choosing a filter whole color is on the opposite side of the color wheel.

Another thing to consider is what exactly black is.  In black and white photography, there are a number of areas that you might consider to be black, just looking at the photograph below there are several areas on the dog that could be considered black. The reality is there are infinite shades and tones of the color black.

As with color photography, Black and white photography also seeks to retain all the detail and texture in the image and to minimize or remove any areas that don’t include any detail. The histogram is helpful in defining this.  Both the histogram in camera and the histogram in the post processing software.

The key is to use the histogram and look at the detail in the darkest point of the photograph and to ensure that all of the photograph even the darkest point has detail.

As always...the best way to learn is to get out there and play with the tools...enjoy!as well!

Silhouettes can provide great practice for black and white photography...aim to retain the detail as well as provide contrast, context and don't forget to choose a great subject!

If you look at the photograph of the high school senior, below, you can see that even in the darkest part of her dress, there is still detail in the lace there.  The darkest area of a photograph is represented on the histogram at the far left and has a RGB value of 0,0,0

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