Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Black & White Basics


 Seems like some people really like B&W portraits, and some people don't...  I do.  I like the simplicity of B&W images.  Generally I think the best portraits are simple, without a lot of busy, distracting elements.  Removing the color from an image helps to simplify the photo and really concentrate the viewer's focus on the subject.

     Actually "black & white" is not very accurate- I prefer images that have a subtle warm color tone.  This "duo-tone" look is more pleasing for portraits.  True black and white portraits can make the subject look very cold and lifeless- typically not the look we're going for.  Nonetheless, I will continue to use the term black & white, even though we all can agree that black & white doesn't really mean black & white :)
     Some images seem to make better B&W's than others.  Usually I find that simple, close-up shots work the best.  But I don't really know how good an image will look in B&W until I try it.  When converting to B&W, there are two key elements that I always add.  First is the warm color tone we already talked about, and Second is Contrast.  B&W images look great with a lot of contrast.  (Lightroom users- also try adding some Clarity)

     You don't need special software to create B&W's, but if you want to get serious about it, there are some great applications out there designed just for B&W conversion.  The most popular is Nik Software's - Silver Effects Pro 2.  It's pretty awesome and it is free to try for 15 days.


      I always recommend Google's Picasa photo editing software for novice photographers.  I used Picasa exclusively for a long time.  It's very very capable, and it's very very FREE!  Because it has become a very popular editing platform, I wanted to put together a short tutorial on converting B&W images in Picasa.  So, even though I'm one of those people who HATES hearing the sound of my own voice- I thought a screen video would be best to explain the procedure.     --

              B&W Conversion in Picasa from tim wyler on Vimeo.

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