Before digital cameras were available a photographer would have to make a conscious decision to load the camera with Black and White or Colour film. With digital cameras we can do this in camera on a shot by shot basis or back at the computer. Easy – Or is it?
I confess to being of an age where I did use Black and White film. So how is this different when using a digital camera?
Well, when I used film I knew I was just going to get a picture in Black and White (BW). This made we think more about how different colours would be represented in tones of grey. When I shot Landscapes I would add a red or yellow filter to the front of the lens to increase the drama and contrast in a cloudy sky. Even today I will sometimes set the camera to a picture mode/control that will show the image in BW on the rear screen of the camera. As I shoot in RAW format I know once the image is on the computer I will have the choice to process as colour or BW.
Some things to note:
- If you shoot in RAW and select a Picture mode/control of BW, the RAW file once loaded on to the computer, will still be in full colour (the unprocessed file). You then have the choice of whether to process as Colour or BW. The image shown on the rear screen of the camera is a JPG file processed in camera according to what picture mode/control was set on the camera.
- If you shoot in JPG and select BW as the Picture mode/control, the image shown on the rear of the camera and the file when loaded on to your computer will be in BW. You will not have the option to process as colour or BW as the file has already been processed in camera.
I sometimes choose BW when I want to focus the attention of the viewer to the subject and I don’t want a dominant background colour to be a distraction. I find this particularly useful when I take pictures of people in woodland or in the countryside where there is a large pre-dominance of green. It is surprising what a difference it makes.
I also use BW when I want to record fine detail with would otherwise be lost in colour. The two photographs shown here were taken on a recent visit to Exbury gardens in Dorset. I was struck by the sheer detail held in the bark of the tree that I knew this had to be in BW. I already had the camera set to RAW and selected a Picture mode of BW.
This something you can easily try, you just need to find the appropriate controls on the camera. Failing that, most post processing software (Photoshop CS, Elements, Picasa, etc) allow you to process images in Black or White. Have a go at seeing the world in different shades of grey.