Sunday, April 3, 2011

An Experiment

Third photo shot black and white

Second photo shot black and white First photo shot in color processed to black and white

I have a Nikon D80 that I got for Christmas back in 2008. Like all new cameras I had not explored it’s possibilities of what it offered, well until now. Last week I had made it my mission to see if shooting in black and white then processing it in Photoshop would look better than shooting in color then processing it to black and white in the same program. First I did not know my camera has a black and white mode but to my excitement I did find it. The path is mode-optimize image-black and white-custom. At this point you can select your tonal compensation and filter effects. I chose 2 tone compression and a red filter. I also changed my type of file shot to RAW which increased my file size by a lot. I could shoot 250 frames not I am down to 150.

Yesterday was a good day to shoot because of the sun was out, a few clouds were there to make the sky interesting. I went out to the back second level of the house and shot off the porch. The subject matter was not of great beauty but there was a large tonal range that was represented there. I had the high key whites to the dark shadows that could go black. This was a good exercise in metering and controlling the exposure to keep get the best results.

I first shot 3 exposures in color. Using the matrix meter reading I shot the first exposure as the meter told me. Then I shot the next exposure so that I can bring the whites down for zone one to zone 3. This would leave them bright but began to pick up detail. Of course this made the shadows move from a zone 7 to a zone 10, black with no detail. This shift in exposure was 2 stops. Then I made exposure the opposite direction, exposing for the shadows and blowing the high lights. Again 2 stops over the first exposure. My intent is to combine these exposure to make one photo perfectly exposed and turn it to black and white.

Now I changed my camera setting to black and white. In the RAW mode it really just a preview mode of black and white. In RAW everything is collected in the exposure including the color. So even though you see the image on the display in black and white, you still have a color file to work with. I think it is cool to have this. Once again I used the matrix meter to give an average exposure for the scene and then exposed for the highlights and shadows. I did add a graduated blue filter for the sky to create dramatic sky.

Once I got the exposures I looked for another area to shoot. I found one that had even a larger range of highlights and shadows. For the highlights there was a white garage and in the shadows were cars both light and dark. Now instead of shooting it landscape I shot it vertical. I metered for the average and shot, then metered for the highlights and shadows and shot each. The interesting thing is that I know I got a better exposure overall when I metered for the highlights.

I pulled the files in and processed them. First it was the color files. Without going into great detail I merged the photos together using layer masks and only using the best exposure of each. Then I converted the color image into black and white again using the layer mask option. I tweaked the image in the channels and committed it to black and white. Then I processed it to make it look warm

Next I did the same process to the black and white versions (display files). I again combined the 3 images to get the highlights and shadows in the right zones. I then turned them into black and white and processed them to sepia and compared. I found that the files shot as black and white to have just a little more tonal range than the color. Each photo has details in the highlights and the shadows. If you look at the parking lot you will notice that you have more detail in the parking lot in the black and white version than the color version. Make since? I have posted each but because each monitor is not calibrated you may or may not see the difference. The print would be the best way to judge this difference. I threw in the garage shot for another example of black and white preview.

I have not drawn any conclusions yet. I believe that it is too soon to be absolutely sure that this is the way I want to shoot my black and white photos. I do think I am on the right path but I will be doing more of these exercises to refine the technique.