Seeing The World In Black & White
Its amazing to think, that when I started into photography my sole focus and primary interest was shooting Black & White. In fact, I bought a second hand (and now hardly ever used) film camera and the only film I have ever shot with it is Ilford HP5+ ISO400, which is a black and white film. Now with the digital age and with advances in Photoshop and other image editing packages, it’s so easy for people to shoot colour images and then convert them to black and white. Whilst this process was available to me as well and indeed used by me, my approach was quite different to what i see people using today. I never converted on the off-chance the shot might look better in monochrome; instead I looked at, envisaged and captured the scene as if it were black and white from the outset.
In my early days, I shot a lot of street photography and some landscapes/urban scenes, all of which was black and white work. But on joining Celbridge Camera Club, I quite deliberately shifted my focus to colour photography so I could compete in all sections of their competitions. My problem now, is that I find it very difficult to shift back It’s rare for me to produce a black and white image these days and even if I do convert some images to monochrome, it’s seldom that I’m happy with the results.
Even using a range of different black and white conversion techniques, I just haven’t been able to produce images which I’ve been happy with. I feel that they have been lacking punch and are generally tonally flat. Even in pushing the contrast, I’ve just never been satisfied that the images were punchy enough. I feel a large part of that is down to the fact I never really shot them with monochrome conversion in mind. I pictured the image in colour, captured the image in colour, so when I stripped that away, the image never looked right? In fact, out of all the images I have had accepted to FIAP salons, only 11 of them are monochrome
But when I recently worked with Ivory Flame and Raphaella, I made a conscious effort to try and capture some monochrome images. To be completely honest, the colour of the surroundings and the colour of the light on the day, made the images very appealing as colour images, but when I was processing them, indeed when I was capturing them, I always had monochrome in the back my mind. My work flow changed slightly too, in that I introduced a new version of the image into it. Normally I use either the colour or monochrome version of the image, but now I keep both Indeed, within the Photoshop PSD file, I also save both versions.
Processing wise, all retouching (contrast, sharpening, cloning etc.) was completed on the colour version of the image. When I was happy with the edits, I duplicated the image, converted it to B&W using the LAB conversion method and then continued to add more contrast. I also found that the burning added to the colour image, needed to be darkened again after the conversion, so there was a bit more work involved in getting the final monochrome image to the way I wanted it. I then copied the resulting monochrome layers back into the original image, grouping them together, so from my master PSD image, I had both a colour and monochrome version saved.
Thankfully from this shoot, I have a range of images I could probably choose from to enter into competitions and exhibitions. With no shoots planned now at all for the remainder of the year, or indeed into next year, they have to suffice