Color or monochrome?

Nov 15, 2019
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Which do you think is best for learning the ins and outs of portraiture, color or monochrome?
I like some of my images better in color, but it seems when I process them, most of them just look more interesting and dramatic in black and white. Thoughts?
 

Artaius

Staff member
Nov 13, 2019
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www.digitalcameraworld.com
For learning the craft and mechanics of portraiture, I think black-and-white is a much more helpful learning aid. As @rlawton says, it will enable you to better grasp fundamentals like composition, contrast, shape, shadow, texture and form without the distraction of colour rabbiting away in your ear.

I'm also firmly of the opinion that if you intend to produce a black and white image, you should shoot it in black and white – not shoot colour and convert it afterwards. You simply see things like contrast and tonality in completely different ways when you compose in mono – you can ape these aspects after the fact if you convert a colour image well, but you will always achieve the best end results if you set out to shoot your end result in the first place.
 
For learning the craft and mechanics of portraiture, I think black-and-white is a much more helpful learning aid. As @rlawton says, it will enable you to better grasp fundamentals like composition, contrast, shape, shadow, texture and form without the distraction of colour rabbiting away in your ear.

I'm also firmly of the opinion that if you intend to produce a black and white image, you should shoot it in black and white – not shoot colour and convert it afterwards. You simply see things like contrast and tonality in completely different ways when you compose in mono – you can ape these aspects after the fact if you convert a colour image well, but you will always achieve the best end results if you set out to shoot your end result in the first place.
Now that is something I have never tried. Im always one for seeing an image in Lightroom and converting then. Some images just scream to be converted I find. But I have never though of black and white while shooting. Something I shall take on board. Thank you.
 
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Artaius

Staff member
Nov 13, 2019
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www.digitalcameraworld.com
Always glad when I say something useful for a change! :)

I'm not completely against mono conversions, and I've certainly seen many fantastic black-and-white images that started lie as colour shots. But the mindset and the act of setting out to shoot in mono – especially if shooting mirrorless or through live view, where you're actually previewing and envisioning your shots in black and white – almost always produces more effective results. At the very least, it's a great exercise to master the core stuff!

And of course, as @Idene notes, if you shoot JPG+RAW then you always have the colour version that you can revisit later.

Now that is something I have never tried. Im always one for seeing an image in Lightroom and converting then. Some images just scream to be converted I find. But I have never though of black and white while shooting. Something I shall take on board. Thank you.
 
Nov 18, 2019
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Agree, shooting in B/W is easier to see what the light is doing without the distractions of the colours. I will also shoot in B/W so that I can see the results and make any adjustments at the time of the shoot.
 
Dec 12, 2019
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I'm also firmly of the opinion that if you intend to produce a black and white image, you should shoot it in black and white – not shoot colour and convert it afterwards.
I exhort other photographers not to do this. By all means envision your image in monochrome even temporarily convert the viewfinder display to mono but do not take a mono image and discard colour information.

If you were to switch to mono you would be advised to carry a set of yellow, orange and red filters as we did in the old days.

Far better mono images can be produced in post where individual colours can be swapped before conversion and then tonally altered via HSL (hue/saturation/luminance) sliders etc
 
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Dec 10, 2019
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Hello,

I never shoot in black and white. I always convert the image in post. It's true that you can learn to "see" the image in black and white well before you press the shutter and then decide if the image is a good candidate for a monochrome presentation. What helps me determine if a monochrome presentation is a good choice is the amount of lighting available to play with. Oblique angles of light striking the subject (side-lighting) can produce very dramatic monochrome images.

Tony
 
Dec 10, 2019
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I exhort other photographers not to do this. By all means envision your image in monochrome even temporarily convert the viewfinder display to mono but do not take a mono image and discard colour information.

If you were to switch to mono you would be advised to carry a set of yellow, orange and red filters as we did in the old days.

Far better mono images can be produced in post where individual colours can be swapped before conversion and then tonally altered via HSL (hue/saturation/luminance) sliders etc
I completely agree!

Tony
 

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