Thursday, July 18, 2013

Black and White and Bangkok

Motorcycle taxi drivers play chess while they wait for a fare on Sukhumvit Soi 79

I don't do a lot of black and white photography anymore. Back in the day, way, way back in the day, when I worked for newspapers, before photography went digital, I did a lot of black and white photography. We (we being newspaper photographers) worked in B&W because that's what our newspapers published. 

I haven't worked in black and white in years, probably more than 10 years. At the end of the film time, when we were scanning our photos, we worked with exclusively with color film and scanned the slides (or color negatives) into the computer and then prepress handled whatever conversion was needed. But 100% of our photography was done with color film. 

One of the least appreciated things about digital cameras is that they can record both a black and white and color version of the same picture at the same time. That's what I did today. I didn't have an assignment and wanted to try something a little different so I went up to Wat Mahabut, an interesting temple of Soi 77 Sukhumvit and worked in black and white and color at the same time. 

There are some digital cameras that record exclusively in black and white, like the ridiculously expensive Leica Monochrom ($8,000 body only and that's not a typo. Leica spells it Monochrom, I guess when the camera costs 8K you can spell it however you want), but I don't own Leicas anymore. 

I set my camera up to photograph in RAW+JPEG. The RAW file is the file straight off the sensor, with none of the presets or parameter settings you, the user, might have set. The JPEG, on the other hand, has all of the user set parameters applied. This gives you the best of both worlds. The RAW file (which is what I work off pretty much 100% of the time) and the JPEG. 

The only time I record JPEGs is when I'm working for a wire service on a tight deadline. I transmit the deadline JPEGs if I don't have time to import and process the raw files. On the rare occasion that I record JPEGs, I record them in color. 

Today, since I didn't have an assignment I worked in B&W. It was like going back to the 80s, when I had my first newspaper job at the Fergus Falls Daily Journal and photographed everything with black and white film. Only today my "film" was an 8gigabyte Secure Digital card.

It's easy to set your digital camera to record in both black and white color. (This assumes your camera can record in RAW+JPEG, most, but not all, can.) First set up your camera to record in RAW the way you usually do. Then go into your Picture Style settings (this varies from camera manufacturer to camera manufacturer and may require some hunting to find - or you could read the manual. On Canons it's called Picture Style) and select Monochrome. You can also set up the contrast and sharpness here and on some cameras you can select specific color filters (a green filter for example emphasizes skin tones, a red filter deepens blue skies etc). And you're good to go. The color filter effects, if you choose to use them, are "virtual" filters applied by software built into the camera. They don't actually change the color of your raw file. 

When you're done, import the photos into your Lightroom catalog and your black and white photos should be next to your color raw files. Pretty cool. (Note: Make sure you've selected "Treat JPEG files next to the raw files as separate photos" in your General Preferences.) 
Girl Scouts walk down Soi 22 Sukhumvit after school Thursday afternoon. 

Of course, you can also do this by just working with RAW files and then converting them in software when you get back to your Mac. But where's the fun in that?

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please keep comments civil. I moderate all comments and will not post or respond to comments that are racist, name calling or hateful. Anonymous comments are not allowed. Thank you.