Seeing the world in black and white is an entirely different experience than we’re used to. A lack of color causes you to isolate a scene’s elements and examine them more closely. As a photographer, instead of looking at a rainbow of hues for guidance; lines, shapes, gradients, shadows, and lighting become your palette.
Adobe Lightroom offers a variety of features that allow you to fully enhance your black and white photography to achieve greater depth, richer tones, and inject life into photos that may otherwise feel flat.
One of these is Adobe Lightroom’s “Post-Crop Vignetting Feature” located under the “Effects” right-hand side module. Vignetting is the effect of having a dark shading encompass the frame of your photo. In Adobe Lightroom you are able to adjust the amount, shape, and density of this shaded frame to your preference. The darker vignetting you have, the more dramatic a photo tends to be. You can also use vignetting to attract attention to the center of your photograph since our eyes tend to focus on lighter portions of a photograph. Many use vignetting to add an “artsy” effect, much like how people use cross-processing, and other filters. I personally like applying it to black and white photos because it reminds me of vintage movie stills.
When I ventured on a black and white mission, I noticed myself searching for scenes that offered a large range of light and dark tones. This range of tones, from deep shadows to glistening highlights, is typically why photographers tend to shoot near sunrise or sunset. Shooting at the right time of day is especially important with black and white photography because this range is what gives a sense of dimension and detail to your photo.
The scene above was taken near sunset, which attributes to the different levels of black, white and grey, fading into the distance. You can also see that simple details like a dirt roadway become more amplified and graphic in black and white.
A great way to approach black and white photography for the first time is to focus on geometry. Simple shapes and repetition that may go unnoticed in color can translate into interesting patterns when captured in black and white.
Another easy way to shoot in black and white is to take advantage of preset effects on your camera, like the “Classic Effect” feature available on the NX300. This is a great option since it allows you to see how your scene will look in black and white, in real time, instead of waiting for post production to see how it might turn out.
To use this feature, simply put your camera in shooting mode, select the “MENU” button, hit the camera icon, and select “Picture Wizard.” You can see a variety of filter options like “Vivid,” “Forest,” and “Retro.” Selecting “Classic” will let you shoot automatically in black and white.
Whether you’re still working on training your “color-blind” eye, or if you’re a pro just wanting to go on a black and white kick, Samsung’s “Classic Effect” is a convenient way to boost your black and white portfolio.
Even when I already have all my photos in black and white, I always like to have the option to adjust certain aspects using Adobe Lightroom. In the photo above I was able to make some small tweaks, using the “Graduated Filter” feature to subtly enhance my final photo.
With the “Graduated Filter” you are able to separate your photo into successive segments and apply changes that affect these segments progressively. You can see in the photos below that the sky in my original photo a bit on the light side, which made it seem underexposed in comparison to the darker color of the hills in the foreground. By using the “Graduated Filter” feature, I was able to darken part of it without jeopardizing the rest of the photo—which would have otherwise been overexposed.
Another great tool for spot adjustment is Adobe Lightroom’s “Adjustment Brush.” You can see how I used it in the photos below to brighten the “No Left Turn” sign. It’s very similar to the Graduated Filter tool, except instead of dividing the photo into sections, the brush allows you adjust particular spots freely. You can also adjust the size and shape of your brush to fit even the trickiest parts of your photo.
Black and white photography has its own set of intricacies, and using the NX300 and the tools that come with it can help you master them over time. So next time you’re driving around, try to take a look at the world as if you were colorblind. Notice the shapes and shades that make up your surroundings, and maybe you’ll stumble across a scene that’s worth pulling over for.