Welcome to Week 2 of 2019.
I have actually been all over the board this week trying to figure out where to begin. I've been reading articles, watching videos, and taking monochrome classes for shooting and editing. It is overwhelming, but I'm determined.
I’ve have come to realize that getting a great shot right from the start (in camera) is the best place to start and will decrease the amount of post-processing necessary. We all want that. So that is where I'm starting although it is easier said than done. I will have a future post about taking pictures for monochrome but for now I want to talk about something that I've read a lot about when shooting for Black and White.
Shooting in RAW
I know that I won't be getting great shots in the short term so this is one area where shooting in RAW comes in. I know there is a lot of controversy regarding RAW versus JPEG. For now, I'm simply going to go down this path and I may change my mind later as I learn and experiment. Here is what I've learned about the RAW file format. You can find much more information online, but here are some convincing highlights I would like to share.
A RAW file gives you more opportunities to fix the image in post processing than a JPEG file. The Raw file has more data to work with, where a JPEG file has already been processed by your camera. Over the years I've heard this again and again. I have even experimented shooting in RAW, but I was always frustrated by the work required to process the files to get good results. Therefore I abandoned RAW and stayed with JPEG because I was primarily shooting color images and the pictures were pretty good right out of the camera, or with minimal editing. I feel that I can use all the help I can get for my black and white photography so I'm going to make the switch.
“RAW files will give you the best image quality and the most flexibility in your digital files. As you probably may know, JPEGs are already processed in camera, so any changes made to the JPEG are made on top of the settings that are already there. This is very important in black-and-white photography because the tone and contrast are largely locked in with a JPEG photo, while you can process the RAW file to get much better image quality and control in the tones and contrast.
How does this work?
“Raw files are converted to 16-bit color in the image editing software which will capture 281 trillion colors. You can’t really see this many color, but for black and white it provides flexibility and smoothness as the image goes from light to black. It also allows for more details in the shadow and the highlights (eliminating any possible banding).”
This does not mean that you cannot get an excellent black and white JPEG. Sometimes the camera can interpret the color or makes the black and white conversion resulting in exactly what you had in mind when you took the shot.
Work in Progress
Now that I've made a decision to work from a RAW file, here is my work in progress. Right now I'm shooting in RAW and Monochrome JPEG. The black and white JPEG image allows me to see the image in the viewfinder and review the histogram right after I shoot the image.
I will will continue to work through the editing process in the weeks to come as I learn more about editing RAW files in ACR (Adobe Creative Raw). Below are two image that I've been working on this past week. These are RAW files converted to black and white in Adobe Camera Raw with minimal edits. As I get better, I will continue to work on enhancing these and other images over the course of my studies. These is still so much to learn. I know they can look even better.
Image reference below: Color RAW image (no edits) before black and white conversion was made.
Disclaimer: I realize that this approach does not work for everyone for any number of reasons. If you have experiences using RAW that you would like to share I would very much like to hear from you. The good, the bad and the ugly!