Black And White Photography: The missing link

Photograph of a woman in Black and white
A Black and white photograph should have enough whites and enough blacks © Patrice Laborda

When i see some photos in Black and White just converted without any adjustment or using only preset i feel sick for those  photos.


In photography it's well known that a good photo in Black & White need to have enough Black and enough White it's not just all about gray or grey !


You can recognize instantly a good black and white photograph anywhere, because it was not made only with preset.


People who do themselves their own photo black and white conversion and processing have something that the preset can't give, the soul of the photographer !

A black and white photograph remove the colors to let you "concentrate" on the story, to dramatize the picture, it let you touch the feeling of the photographer, and the contrast or the softness of the black and white will define what the picture is about.

But nowadays, the biggest problem with digital photographs, is that everybody convert to Black & White any kind of pictures, even when the pictures have nothing to do in B&W, it's just to have a "look", but if the look does not fit ?


If it does not fit well, people don't see it or do not care about it, even worst, people shot a bad picture, convert in black&white and think it became a nice picture because it was converted in B&W.


If it's bad from the beginning, it's bad forever and thinking that  a simple conversion in Black and White will made it a wonderful photograph, is stupid or it's too high for my brain, that i cannot get it. If it was as simple as just clicking on the Black and White button, every one on this planet will knew it!

Picture in black and white: kids playing at throwing stones
Picture in black and white: kids playing at throwing stones © Patrice Laborda

Having said that, is there one or more specific situation to do Black and white photography ? No !


I heard many times, here you cannot do black and white photos, there you can't or in this situation it does not fit. How wrong are those photographer ! you can do B&W photos in all situation.

How 100 years ago, photographers was shooting when the photographs in colors was not there ? in B&W only !


I also heard many time by some photographers narrow minded, that B&W underwater is not nice, or it does not fit. You can do black and white under water and that is a fact!

I do it!


In all cases, when you shoot, you need to think about what you are shooting. Look, when you frame your pictures, you are thinking about the framing... in black and white it's the same way, when you are shooting you should think black and white to get the most of it in post processing. What does that mean ? It does mean, if you are shooting in colors in your mind, you might be disappointed when you will convert your photograph in B'nW.

Underwater black and white photograph
Underwater black and white photograph, after 20 meters everythings is bluish-green, so i am already in monochrome state minded

In SCUBA diving, if i do not bring underwater strobes, passed 20-30 meters deep, my mind automatically switch in monochrome state (at those depth most of the colors have already disappeared) for ambiance pictures, which help a lot when i convert them in black and white.


Converting a photograph in Black and White, is not just pushing a button on any Apps to get a grey picture like that you  think you got a fantastic oldies art from the last century and it's done ... no!

If it was so simple everybody will know it!

Pushing only the contrasts will not do it also, you need to play with ... the colors.


What ?!

A black and white picture need to be adjusted with the colors sliders (HSL) ?


Yes ! Add more red saturation and you will see the red part of the picture becoming dark in B&W, add more luminosity in the red color and you will see the red part of the picture becoming brighter and even white in B&W, change the hue and you got a different grey.


With Lightroom you have 8 colors sliders to use when you convert your picture in black and white, use them all!

For example to isolate your subject, to brighten or darken some part of the picture, in another words, to make your own personal Black and White, to put your soul in your Black and white, and do not forget to have always enough black and enough white in your B&W photographs, because after all, the white color, is not a mix of all the existing colors?

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