Color to Black and White Photography

by Earl J Posted on September 24, 2013

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About a month ago my wife, Diane and my friend, Don asked me if digital cameras could make black and white prints. When I replied with a “Yes” I had no idea of what I was getting myself into.

As I checked into it, knowing that most digital cameras do not have a black and white setting, I started to wonder if some of my color photos would look as good, or maybe even better in black and white.

I’ve taken digital photos for about 11 years, and all are in color, so I took the hours needed to scroll through all of my photos to create a new file of ones I wanted to check out. Bottom line is – I found a lot of photos that I thought might be good in black and white and because of that I’ve just ordered a 50-page Shutterfly photo book that shows my same photos printed both ways. I’ve included some of those shots in this blog and invite your opinions about them.

Now let’s look at how different the same photograph can look.

The first examples are at Expo in Lisbon, Portugal. Note how the bridge stands out in the B&W print and how much more dramatic the entire scene is.

Portugal

Now we see homes on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, also in Portugal. Note how the color highlights the beauty while the B&W packs in a lot of drama.

Portugal-Ocean

These statues are in Taos, New Mexico. The B&W version shows much more power, and at the same time shows more detail of the church.

Colorado-Statue

These shots are of a bog in Lafayette, Louisiana. I prefer the color photo here as the green seems to be needed to create the proper mood.

Lafayette-Swamp

I took this photo of a bridge in Florence, Oregon in the early morning golden hours. I like the results either way, but again there might be more drama in the B&W version.

Portand-Bridge

These cypress knees in northern Florida are powerful either way but I think the B&W gives them even more strength.

Madison-Blue-Springs

Ansel Adams is a noted photographer who specialized in landscapes featuring a lot of deep blacks. I tried for the Ansel Adams effect in my B&W version of Crows-Nest Pass in Alberta, Canada.

Alberta-Mountains

I hope you will experiment with your own photography to find how you would like your own selected shots in Black & White.

With most cameras you will need to use a photo editing program to do this. I happen to use Paint Shop Pro, but there are also free programs like Picasa, that can get you started. First, be sure to work with a duplicate copy of your photo. After opening the duplicate you can “tweak”. Don’t go too far with this tweaking or the result may look fake, and you probably don’t want that.

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more about Earl J

I'm a long-time film photographer, starting with a darkroom in my parents' fruit-cellar when a teen-ager. I fought the change to digital at first, but no longer. I've become a convert and Shutterfly has been my on-line provider since 2002. Since then I've placed (as I write this) 135 orders for prints, enlargements, calendars for every year and 42 photo books in different sizes. I'm very pleased with the top quality of all Shutterfly products.

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