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Digital Photography: Color and B&W

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  • Digital Photography: Color and B&W

    You'd think a yearbook advisor would know this, but I don't, so I'm asking you.

    Most of our yearbook is in black and white. My emphasis this year is on publishing only quality photographs, and I'm beating into my staff the importance of taking good pictures.

    What I don't know is this: If pictures are going to be published in b&w, is it better to take them with digital cameras in COLOR, then place them as b&w, or to actually shoot them with cameras in b&w mode?

    Is a digital camera in b&w mode just translating color into b&w the way photo-editing software does, or is it actually seeing images differently, as through a filter or something?
    But I'm disturbed! I'm depressed! I'm inadequate! I GOT IT ALL! (George Costanza)

  • #2
    Re: Digital Photography: Color and B&W

    Since I tend to use cheap digital cameras (under $100) I don't think they have the option of taking a shot in black & white mode.

    I normally use Microsoft Word's Picture option to convert a color photograph to greyscale to get the black & white effect.


    • #3
      Re: Digital Photography: Color and B&W

      You could always experiment. Take several pictures with both modes. compare it with the photoshop later.

      Theoretically, I would think the color pictures would be a better source. You can shift the colors and grayscale them if you feel some pictures don't have enough gray variations.


      • #4
        Re: Digital Photography: Color and B&W

        My 2 Sony point and shoot cameras take pictures in color, black and white, sepia and inverse modes. Never shot in inverse, but have used the other 3.

        To me, if I think I am going to need something in black and white, then I shoot in black and white mode. However when I put the file in Photoshop, it is a standard RGB color JPG, which means (I think) that the photo is really in color. I still end up choosing "grayscale" on photoshop to make it a "true" black and white photo, for whatever that is worth.

        My Canon Digital Rebel 300D does not have a black and white mode, so I end up shooting everything in color. I find it humbug to convert the color ones to black and whites because I don't know if I am getting a true black and white photo as if I had shot it with good old black and white Tri-X film.

        I remember reading in a photo magazine that there are certain things you can do in photoshop to get a better black and white image from your color photo by decreasing certain colors and playing with the saturation before converting the file to grayscale.

        Of course one of the advantages of using color is that you have a copy that you can publish in color to a website. But still the humbug to go through in getting the color to black and white can be cumbersome I think.

        For that reason I am probably going to get the new Canon Digital Rebel 400XTi, because that camera has a black and white mode. One thing about my Sonys too is that when I go to black and white mode, the camera only stays in that mode as long as I have it on. When I turn it off, it goes back to color. I think the Canon doesn't do that... so if you turn it off in black and white mode, when you turn it on again later it is still in the mode you last left it in.

        Of course you could always go back to film!
        I'm still here. Are you?


        • #5
          Re: Digital Photography: Color and B&W

          definitely shoot in color mode and do B&W in post processing. if you are using photoshop you have great control over your black and whites. just a greyscale conversion doesn't do them justice. you need to try different variations of doing B&W in photoshop.

          1. way is to convert from RGB to Lab, then in the channels pick the Luminance layer. this simple convert to black and white is almost always more appealing than greyscale. then switch from Lab mode to Greyscale (under Image -> Mode)

          2. this is the most versatile version of B&W. go to the channel mixer adjustments under Image -> Adjustments -> Channel Mixer. then click the 'monochrome' checkbox in the lower left. you can then play around with different R-G-B percentages. i believe it will default to Red 100%, but try changing Red to 0% and move Green up towards 100%. play with the 3 sliders to find a setting you prefer for your image.

          I use Mac and Aperture as well and Aperture already has Monochrome presets based on the Channel Mixer in Photoshop
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          • #6
            Re: Digital Photography: Color and B&W

            I shoot everything in color. You never know when you might need something in color later. Aside from saving disk space, I don't see any reason to shoot in greyscale, or any of those other "modes."

            LocalMotion has some interesting greyscale conversion methods that I'm going fiddle with... thanks for the input!


            • #7
              Re: Digital Photography: Color and B&W

              Oh, and one more thing... don't ever use in-camera sharpening. Always use the unsharp mask filter in photoshop.

              I can't tell you how many times we get pix from "freelancers" (a very loose term) that have been sharpened (and resized) and look like crap when we have to process them.

              Talk to your printer to find out what kind of sharpening should be done in pre-press. If you're not doing pre-press (with press calibrations) for actual output, don't do any sort of color correction or sharpening to the photo. Let your printer do that.


              • #8
                Re: Digital Photography: Color and B&W

                A camera's built-in effects will always be painfully sloppy kludges compared to the refining and adjusting you can do via software. Pro photogs on digital, in fact, love working with RAW image files -- as pure and untouched from the digital sensor as possible (not even a hint of compression).

                Black and white can look artsy, but it can also look pretentious.

                And yes, in any case, it's always good to have the color data around in case you need it later. If you used the B&W mode on your camera, you'll never get that scene again.

                Love the B&W fiddling tips, LocalMotion. Going to play with those now!