Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Black and White

I've done quite a lot of B&W conversion to pictures that I think "need" to be Black and White, for whatever reason. There are many ways to accomplish this with a digital camera, the first of course being that all digicams ever sold, I think, have a built in black and white setting. I prefer to do it by converting a colour pic using the computer, but to each his own.

This one was interesting to work on. Firstly, it is another of my vertical panoramas taken with my EOS 40D - stitching three vertical shots together to give it a "big camera" look - I really love this trick! The result was a colour picture in which the colour added absolutely nothing - just a faded yellow building and a clear blue sky. It was the shadows that were contributing the most interest to the picture, making it a prime candidate for Black and White.

My usual technique to convert colour to B&W is to use a very cool feature of the GIMP software - the B&W film simulation filter. It offers several different "famous" black and white film brands and types to choose from, along with a choice of colour-gel filters, and various other contrast and saturation adjustments. Now that I'm retired, I have more time to play, so I used GIMP to try out lots of different combinations, then set them up for comparison viewing, to help me decide if GIMP's B&W simulation is just a gimmick, of if I really can see a difference between my choices. I suppose I could put all the choices up here so you can see for yourself, but for now, I'm simply starting with the one I like best. I'm glad to say there are clear differences to be had according to your choice of "film", and "Filter-Gels". Whoever created this B&W Film algorithm definitely knows his stuff! I could easily discern differences in contrast, clarity, and highlight detail between all of my choices.

For this picture, I settled on the "Ilford Delta -400 Pro & 3200" film type with the Yellow Filter-Gel. This gave the best overall emphasis, with a high but still natural looking contrast, and best of all, it most clearly separated the big tree in the foreground from the old building, which is what I was really wanting to happen.

So, in conclusion, when doing Black and White digital, by all means I encourage you to try a number of different things by creating different B&W computer files to compare - including using all of the settings offered by your camera - brightness, contrast and colour saturation (yes, the overall "look" of your final B&W product will be greatly affected by the colour settings of your camera too).

Have fun!

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