Black & White has been my second favorite photographic medium since I started printing in the early 1970’s. My first favorites were Kodachrome and Ektachrome (Info-Red) films. I either wanted NO-Color or really Radical Color! Anything in between was just too boring for me—and still is.
I’ve lost all my favorite films, but with the many, many, flavors of software and Photoshop Plug-ins we can alter our digital RAW (Color) files to become ANYTHING we want.
My criteria for converting digital color files to B&W are exactly the same when I used film.
The Best B&W Images Must Have:
- Directional Light (that means shadows).
- Good Blacks and Whites.
- Texture and/or Detail.
- A strong center of interest.
Here’s one of my images that Had to be in Black & White….
|f5.6 @ 1/30 sec., ISO 800; Lens 15mm
I created this image at the old Idaho State Penitentiary (est. 1870) in the prison laundry. These old, super large capacity, belt driven, washing machines were ideal for B&W conversion.
The scene met all four of my criteria:
- the top and back light created direction and shadows.
- which I knew would give me good blacks and whites.
- old machinery usually has great texture and detail.
- I made this machine a strong center of interest by moving in close with my 15mm fisheye lens.
How I converted my color file to Black & White.
For this image I used NIK’s Silver Efex Pro-2 software. I like NIK’s Silver Efex because it has many choices in looks and styles to offer:
- It has 38 preset conversions that can be adjusted.
- It has 18 film emulation modes that you can apply to any of the presents.
- Plus adjustments for grain, toning, vignettes, and finishing effects that burn edges and create borders.
For this image I used the Wetrocks Preset and modified it for deeper blacks and more contrast.
Here’s the original color file….
As you can see the color file is really weak on color mostly due to these grey/blue institutional colors found everywhere in the prison! In addition that red door in the background is an unwanted distraction.
I think this conversion illustrates how well B&W can create drama and interest in otherwise hum-drum subjects like a washing machine.
Have a question? Don’t hesitate to ask…’Til next week…
Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com