Sometimes a location screams out for black and white images

Sometimes a location just screams out for black and white images.

Take Paris for example. You can’t really make a bad image in Paris, but the city cries out for black and white. There’s so much history there and combined with the classic ‘Parisian’ architecture, you start seeing in black and white. You can’t help it.

View of Paris from the top of Notre-Dame de Paris

View of Paris from the top of Notre-Dame de Paris
Olympus OMD EM-5, 1/800 sec, ƒ8, 50mm, ISO200

Whether you’re walking along the banks of the Seine, or strolling through one of the many streets, the texture and feeling of the city almost demands you set your camera to black and white.

Cruising on the Seine

A boat cruising along the River Seine with Notre-Dame de Paris in the background
Olympus OMD EM-5, 1/160 sec, ƒ4, 12mm, ISO200

If you’re capturing RAW images though, your camera will capture what it sees. It won’t capture black and white images. So how do you capture black and white images while shooting in RAW mode? Simply change your camera to capture both a RAW file and a black and white JPEG file.

Advantages of capturing both RAW plus JPEG

  • Having the RAW file means you can develop the file later and still have full control over the final image;
  • Having a black and white JPEG means you can transfer the image to your mobile device of choice and upload it to social media after some basic adjustments in your favourite software;
  • When you capture in RAW plus JPEG, the rear LCD display on your camera will show the JPEG file. In other words you will be looking at a black and white image on the back of the camera, which helps you to see in black and white
View along the River Seine

View along the River Seine from the top of Notre-Dame de Paris
Olympus OMD EM-5, 1/1000 sec, ƒ10, 13mm, ISO200

Disadvantage of capturing both RAW plus JPEG

The only reall disadvantage of capturing both a RAW file and a black and white JPEG file is the space the extra file takes up. Cards are so cheap now though that whether your camera uses Compact Flash (CF) or Secure Digital (SD), you can buy large capacity cards at very reasonable prices. That means the cost of the extra storage is really negligible.

Why you should shoot in black and white

One of the best reasons to shoot black and white images, or at least RAW plus black and white JPEG, is that you see the image in black and white on the back of your camera. You start to see how highlights and shadows affect the tones within your image. When you start seeing those tones, you start to interpret the light around you and become better at pre-visualising what your image is going to look like before you even make it.

Bicycles are everywhere in Paris

Bicycles are everywhere in Paris
Fujifilm X100S, 1/140 sec, ƒ2.8, ISO200

Gargoyle on top of Notre-Dame de Paris

Gargoyle on top of Notre-Dame de Paris
Olympus OMD EM-5, 1/125 sec, ƒ8, 50mm, ISO200

Images of iconic locations or objects / buildings can also look quite different when captured in black and white.

Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France
Olympus OMD EM-5, 1/4000 sec, ƒ4.2, 17mm, ISO250

Seeing light differently

Learning to see in black and white really is beneficial when you’re a photographer. You begin to look at light differently. You start to think about light and shadow; about subtle differences in the shadows; you begin to identify what will be visually pleasing before even raising the camera to your eye.

Give it a try. Go and shoot some black and white images. Feel free to share them in the comments below.

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Ken

Photography is about vision; I love making photographs that tell a location’s story – the place, the people and the culture. I'm a photographer with a relaxed approach. I'm an experienced traveller and love teaching others about photography. Images can be made anywhere - right in your back yard or in exotic overseas locations. I can teach you not only to look at your surroundings, but also to really "see" what's there. Photography is more than just pressing a button. It's also about vision. Let me show you how to look, see and capture your world.

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