If you had to choose between ALL colour, or ALL black and white, for me there would be no second thought. Even though a lot of our work is in colour, there is something soulful about black and white. The way that you can play with the light a lot more, highlighting your subject with a touch of light or making it really contrasty and strong. Either/or, it’s definitely something I’ve thought about.
There is a photographer that we’ve followed for the longest time called Michelle Gardella and she has a series on her site called River stories, it’s all black and white and it always will be by the looks of things. If you haven’t had chance to look at Michelle’s work I’d really recommend it, there is something so delicate about it that I couldn’t imagine it in colour, it just wouldn’t look right.
Before I go into how we edit I wanted to talk to you about how we choose what will be a black and white image? When we shoot in analogue film, it’s more of conscious decision before the shoot, but with digital and phones it almost seems like an after thought. And yeah it’s sometimes like that for us, if it doesn’t work in colour then we look at it in black and white.
But saying all that, we really try to think of the edit as we’re shooting. When we hit certain types of light we almost know that this will be a black and white image. Generally we love to photograph in more contrasty light, which I think lends itself to black and white. When we’re in that situation, and maybe if the scene that we’re looking at is busy, I’ll convert it to black and white to minimise the information that’s hitting your eyes and hopefully making it calmer. Or the other option would be to bring out the minimalism by using the light hitting the subject and the dark darks (technical term) but almost isolating them. The third reason why we would, is to create more texture in the image, we love when you look at an image and there is a certain feel about it, it almost looks as though you could run your finger over the screen and feel the image.
When we edit, we usually start with a black and white preset in lightroom we’ve created. For those who don’t know, it’s basically a pre determined set of settings that we’ve put in before but now has been saved, and can be used on any other images. For this post I’m going to run though how we would do it, with and without a preset, and then below that, there is a post with a preset, it’s kind of like the U2’s classic with or without you, in a blog form.
With out a preset
convert to black and white
Push the contrast up between +40 to +60 depending on the image
Bring the highlights down to retain some information in the image
Bring the blacks down as well to create a deeper looking black
With the tonal curve it’s like creating a small wave. Make sure that your points are selected which you’ll find in the bottom right. Grab the line at the very top and bring it downwards and at the opposite end do the same but pull it upwards. This will start to give you a film look over your images but you want to add a little more contrast to it so this is where you’ll add two more points. Raise the top one above the line which lightens the image and pull the lower one below the images which will darken the image and adding more contrast.
We love to add grain as it adds texture and feeling. We won’t add a silly amount to most images but in some cases if the images is say out of focus and and has movement in it I sometimes like to add more.
Exposure, last but not least once all this is done I’ll go back up and adjust the exposure to suit. As we’ve shot in Raw we’ve got a little more play around with the exposure so if you have a darker image you can bring it up to lighten it.
With a preset
When we use a preset I’ve always tried to stick to one colour and one black and white thought that session as I really believe it helps with consistency.
1. Add the preset (black wood in this case)
2. Adjust the exposure to suit & check if anything else needs tweaking
If you have any questions about the process pop in the comments below and I’ll get back to you.
These are the presets that we use for most of our work.
3 different black and white presets that we’ve used over the last 4 years. No preset out there is one click and done and these are the same. If you’ve got a correct exposure, it might just take some adjustments with the exposure slider and that’s it. For best results shoot in camera Raw.
These presets are named after a special place for us, it’s a place that feels like home. The tones, the colours the stillness. We created them after being inspired by our landscape and all it’s beauty.