So what is the best way of getting black and white photographs? I use a few different approaches. If I am using a digital camera I tend to shoot my picture in colour and then convert the image in software on my computer. Sometimes, I used to use the various black and white settings on the camera itself, but now I tend to prefer conversion from colour done on my computer. Sometimes I shoot colour film and after processing and scanning, I convert the colour image to black and white in software the same way I would with a colour image taken with a digital camera. Other times I will shoot black and white film in a film camera in the first place. Shooting film is great fun, and with the abundance of low cost film 35mm SLR camera available on eBay, this can be an economical way to get a great camera. I have included some images below that have been captured using a few different methods:
The shot below was taken on a Fuji X100s compact digital camera whilst on a frosty morning walk out of the village near where I live. I shot the picture in RAW format and then once in Adobe Lightroom I converted it into black and white in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 software. The Nik software is really fun to use and I typically take about a minute doing the conversion. The image at the top of the article used the same camera and method and was shot a few minutes later on the same walk.
This portrait of my youngest daughter was shot on a Minolta SRT303 35mm SLR film camera with the standard 50mm lens. This was the first time I used this fully manual camera and had loaded it with Kodak Ektar 100 which is quite a slow colour film, so ideally used in bright conditions. This was not the case on the day I started to use this camera; it was a dusky overcast late afternoon. I had to have the lens aperture wide open to get enough light, so focusing was tricky with such a shallow depth of field. I missed the focus, but it looks quite cool in the final image so I don’t mind! I sent the film to be processed and scanned; after loading into lightroom I went over to the Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 software to spend a couple of minutes converting the shot to black and white.
Barbed wire in the rain. Not the ultimate day for photography but I was needing to get a film shot off to take to Banbury Camera Club the next day, to have a go at film processing myself, which I really enjoyed. I brought the developed negatives home and then scanned them on a film scanner into my computer. This was traditional black and white film, Ilford Hp5+ to be precise and I shot it on my Nikon F65 film SLR that I had picked up on eBay. This film is quite grainy but I do like the look. It was also developed in Rodinal, a film developer that hails from the 1880’s, so suitably old school. I think I may have slightly adjusted the contrast in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2, but really the image is as it came out of the camera.
I am not sure if there is one best way to shoot black and white photographs. On a personal level, I enjoy using various approaches. What do you think?
You can check out more black and white photographs I have taken in my monochrome album on Flickr.
More recently I have written another article on a different variation of getting great monochrome images, take a look.