View Full Version : Beginning Digital B&W

6th April 2008, 04:24 PM
Gardenning had to be unexpectedly cancelled this afternoon as the snow began falling so I thought I'd retreat to a PC and have a play.

In prior posts there were a number of good descriptions on how to get the best out of working with just one of your colour channels and I decided to take a look at some fairly ordinary pictures that I'd not done anything with.

I've decided to post in this forum so don't hold back ...


Swans @ Cosmeston Country Park

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/500/swans.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/4460)

Harold ( and old friend made to look even older -- Sorry Harold !)

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/500/harold.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/4458)

Eglwysillian Church Yard

Site of a number of the graces of the victims of the Universal Colliery diaster in 1913 (not this particular stone which is a stunning marble stone)

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/500/eglwysillan1.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/4455)

6th April 2008, 07:25 PM
don't hold back ...

Ok you asked for it :eek:

Swans:- 5/10

Such a lot of swans in one place just can't be good, and this proves the point...

There is just way too much bits of different swans
Black blobs of distraction in the top corners and the bottom RHS
Some of the white areas are just on the point of burning out
No detail in the black around the bill
No catchlight in the eye
Needs a much tighter crop

Harrold:- 6/10

At least you said sorry...

Lots of the white areas on the hat are burnt out
No detail in the black around the collar (but that's not so bad)
Can't see anything of the eyes. (probably the most important part of the face)
Again, needs a tighter crop.

Eglwysillian Church Yard:- 8/10

Exposure is very well balanced but just starting to burn out on the edges of the stone, which is otherwise very well rendered to bring out the texture.

There looks like some high ISO noise or some other effect creeping in (on the clouds)

The contrast between the stone and the tree is excellent, however cropping off the tree into a square format I think present a bleak image that better suits the sky

Depth of focus is extensive and used very well to maintain viewers interest across the whole image.

However as you say these are "some fairly ordinary pictures" and you are beginning Digital B&W. In which case these are Very Credible pictures for a 1st attempt. It's something you either love or live with but the rewards in producing a stunning B&W print often outweighs all the heartache in producing it.

I'd suggest you buy a copy of Black & White Photography or get a book on the subject (if you havn't already) and go "Old School" by looking for B&W images, with the camera set for B&W then look at what effect coloured filters have in altering the images. I'm still enthralled by the way a simple change of filter can make such a dramatic difference to a picture.


6th April 2008, 08:46 PM
I was going to reply earlier but Graham beat me to it! In general I agree with his comments.

The swans don't do it for me on any level, I'm afraid. There's just too much going on there.

The other two shots are more successful.

It's a shame that we don't get any real contact with the subject of the portrait. I think it's essential to see the eyes in this sort of picture. He looks worth asking to have another go... maybe best not to show him this one though :(

The churchyard scene looks much more promising - I agree that I think it's better to dispense with the yew tree (?) on the left. The main subject is the marvellous texture in the gravestone.

I've never done much B&W either - I was always a colour slide worker and find it difficult to "see" in mono. One day I'll post some of my efforts and await the comments!

Nick Temple-Fry
6th April 2008, 09:10 PM
Not sure about working with just one channel - I tend to blend in (softlight, burn, dodge, add, lighten only, darken etc) with layers (the original decomposed to red/green/blue layers) - but there as many techniques as there are practitioners - and no one approach works for all images.

Swans - there are some lovely curves here and they are what want emphasising - but I'm not sure how I'd approach it.

Harold - a nice portrait in your treatment - I wonder if making it a bit more contrasty (duplicate layer, bring in white and black points a tad, move grey towards white point and blend with softlight) may have given it more punch. But a good character shot.

Church Yard - not sure which colour this is based upon - but wonder if it's the green, in which case a bit more red might help to make it crisper. Again I'd want to make it a bit more contrasty. The other thing I'd consider is to flip the image - that way my eye would read it from the bottom corner up through the middle.

But all I'm doing is revealing my prejudices, as they stand all three are nice black and white conversions.


6th April 2008, 10:01 PM
If you're using PhotoShop…

To give yourself the most control make an adjustment layer and use the Channel Mixer or the Black and White command.

I've always preferred black and white photography, it's only recently that I've been happy to do digital black and white. If you ever get the chance I'd recommend seeing some exhibition quality prints to see just how good monochrome can be.