Working at the newspapers in my earlier years as a photographer I shot little other than black and white film (mostly Kodak T-Max ISO 400.) In recent times I hardly process any of my images as black and white, but have decided it’s high time I got back into the monochrome look.
Shooting black and white is quite a different art than creating colour images. Learning to ‘see’ in monochrome will help you compose images that are better suited to the medium. Whenever I teach our photo workshops here in Thailand I am talking a lot about light and seeing the light. Shooting black and white a lot is how I learned to see light, because there’s no distraction of colour to consider.
I am challenging myself to start thinking in black and white again rather than colour. To start producing images that I have chosen to shoot because they will be stronger and more pleasing if I post process them in black and white, rather than in colour. If you have never shot or processed much black and white a good challenge would be to spend a week or a month or longer, just shooting/processing monochrome. Doing this will help you start to ‘see’ the light, tone, shape, line and texture in your composition more readily. The more familiar you become with this discipline the more you will learn to compose your photographs to create images that will look better as black and white than colour.
With modern digital cameras and software technology the ability to manipulate an image shot as a colour RAW file to be output as a black and white is amazing. Using Adobe Lightroom and/or Photoshop gives us an amazing flexibility in the way we can choose to present the final image. It’s fun to experiment simply by desaturating a colour image, or by digging deeper into the software controls and experimenting how you can control contrast and tonal values using the various sliders and settings.
Currently at Chiang Mai Photo Workshops we are developing a new workshop that will include teaching about using post processing software and I will certainly enjoy sharing my knowledge of how to post process in monochrome.