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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre General Photography Talk 
Thread started 29 Jul 2014 (Tuesday) 19:12
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What Makes a Good Black & White Image?

 
hokiealumnus
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Jul 30, 2014 08:05 |  #16

That last shot of the guy in the Yankees beanie is wonderful.


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Jul 30, 2014 11:14 as a reply to  @ hokiealumnus's post |  #17

To my eye, what makes a good black and white image is one with good contrast. The elephant photo appears to have little contrast so I think it would help to increase the contrast...and lower the exposure in this case too.

It's been my experience that not every subject lends itself to being viewed in black and white. Here's an example of mine where I think the details and contrast work well in b&w.

This was taken at Bombay Beach.

IMAGE: http://genelewis.smugmug.com/Photography/HDR-High-Dynamic-Range-photos/i-TtrJ5NH/0/X2/seaside%20property-X2.jpg

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Jul 30, 2014 11:37 |  #18

navydoc, your beach scene has much more contrast in some areas than in others. The same is true of the examples airfrog posted. The large areas that are smooth or almost smooth set off the parts with more detail. The smooth areas aren't necessarily background in the literal sense, but they function like background. They say "Don't look at me, instead look at my neighbor with the stripes, or the wood grain, or the eyes."


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Jul 30, 2014 12:25 |  #19

Go look at the Silver Efex Pro page:

https://photography-on-the.net …/showthread.php​?t=1147384


Not to say "you have to use it", you can replicate what it does using PS or whatever software you use, but it would be more time consuming. It will or should give an idea of how people use shadows, lines of wrinkles, open spaces, blue skies etc. better for B&W

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sjones
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Jul 30, 2014 16:36 as a reply to  @ Harm's post |  #20

Actually, I don’t think the elephant shot is that bad; it’s pretty much what you get from an elephant. Sure, you can boost the contrast a little, but this doesn’t look washed out by any means.

The great thing about B&W is that it is so malleable to personal preference. There are folks like Daido Moriyama who pretty much get rid of any mid-grays. You then have the aforementioned Adams, who used stark contrast, but still kept a pretty broad tonal range, which helped create illuminance. On the other hand, Weston’s work centered more on subtle tonal transitions, offering a more lush warmth.

If you have Photoshop or any other software with the ‘curves’ feature, get to know it. It’s really one of the only tools you need along with some burn/dodge brushes and sharpening. If not curves, full around with levels.


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Jul 30, 2014 17:26 as a reply to  @ hokiealumnus's post |  #21
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Whatever you do, please, don't go for that HDR BW look. When overdone, the shot has that charcoal feel. :) Like somebody has just burned down the place. Then, you get that all around even tone, sky, foreground, and the background have that all even tonal brightness.


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Martin ­ Dixon
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Jul 31, 2014 05:51 |  #22

buphoto wrote in post #17064940 (external link)
I used to use the photoshop CS5 bw conversion until another photographer told me to:
1. Set your colors in the color pallet in the bottom left corner to pure black and pure white
2. Tools - gradient map
(I believe it's under tools---I'm on my iPad right now)

I have had nothing but success using this way.

Just my two cents. ;)


2 . PS CC under Image/Adjustments/Grad​ient Map...

Looks promising. I Tried this and it created a good image with more contrast than "desaturate"


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Kolor-Pikker
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Jul 31, 2014 06:15 |  #23

sjones wrote in post #17066649 (external link)
The great thing about B&W is that it is so malleable to personal preference. There are folks like Daido Moriyama who pretty much get rid of any mid-grays. You then have the aforementioned Adams, who used stark contrast, but still kept a pretty broad tonal range, which helped create illuminance. On the other hand, Weston’s work centered more on subtle tonal transitions, offering a more lush warmth.

Which is the problem with the elephant, it doesn't have the qualities any of the people you mentioned used; no play with contrast, no subtly, no patterns or interesting shapes, etc... it really is just gray.

Here's some nice B&Ws I shot in NYC, I printed them 16.5x23.5 and they look great at that size."

IMAGE: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/41183616/_MG_8082.jpg

IMAGE: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/41183616/_MG_8092.jpg

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sjones
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Jul 31, 2014 07:09 |  #24

Kolor-Pikker wrote in post #17067716 (external link)
Which is the problem with the elephant, it doesn't have the qualities any of the people you mentioned used; no play with contrast, no subtly, no patterns or interesting shapes, etc... it really is just gray.

QUOTED IMAGE

I realize that, hence the suggestion to boost the contrast---a simple 'S' curve would probably do wonders. But I've seen much worse in terms of flat images, as, in fact, tonal variations do exist in the elephant.

In any event, my comment was made on the basis that while at work, as I am now, I can get on POTN, but for whatever firewall/security purposes, I can't always see photos (I can't see yours for example), so it was only later that I actually saw the elephant photo, and yes, I was expecting something far blander.

As for the folks I mentioned, it was to underscore the fact that the answer to 'what makes a good black & white photograph' can take various avenues, as it is largely subjective. Again, I'm aware that the OP's photo didn't fall into these particular slots.

Moreover, and just generally speaking to all, it's important not to become fixated on the quality of B&W alone or on what type of photo is good for B&W. As I only shoot B&W, I more than understand that rendering has an important place in regards to quality and creativity (one of the reasons why I switched to film), but what ultimately makes a great B&W photos is going to rely on what makes a great photo.

Robert Frank's "The Americans" went through several printings. While the contrast varied among certain editions, with some editions superior to others, the photos were still great. Sort of like appreciating a good song whether played on a high-end stereo or an old transistor portable radio. Sure, the former might be preferable, but the latter can still provide effective enjoyment.

Similarly, Adam's prints went through several variations, reflecting his changing subjective taste throughout the years. And I would not expect my favorite version of a particular print to align with everyone else's.

Anyway, said all I need to say, but PM's always welcome.


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shanehawley
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Jul 31, 2014 08:39 |  #25

i like a lot of range in my BW photos. A lot of times i see people post black and white and its just very dull looking, the whole image will be "gray"

i usually bump up the contrast and clarity more than i normally would

and also keep in mind not everything works in black and white




  
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airfrogusmc
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Jul 31, 2014 08:52 |  #26

I suggest reading about the zone system and going to look at really great B&W work. Not on computer screen but at a museum or gallery. I see a lot of B&W today that is not good because many don't have a reference other that the internet.

Learning to see in B&W and then being able to capture that vision is key and it is very different from seeing and working in color. Many use B&W as an after thought.

Kolor-Pikker I would say you need more detail in the bottom left part of the building in #1. The blacks are all blocked.




  
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Kolor-Pikker
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Jul 31, 2014 09:45 |  #27

airfrogusmc wrote in post #17067961 (external link)
Kolor-Pikker I would say you need more detail in the bottom left part of the building in #1. The blacks are all blocked.

Whoops, I put up the wrong jpeg... :oops: looks fine in the print though, so I must have changed it later.


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MDJAK
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Jul 31, 2014 10:56 |  #28

Amazing pics and very informative and well thought answers to my poorly phrased question.

Few years back I attended an exhibit of Ansel Adams work in Vegas. I know what I good BW looks like. What I should've asked is how you do it which many above have explained. Thank you.
Mark




  
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Jul 31, 2014 11:14 |  #29

Martin Dixon wrote in post #17067693 (external link)
2 . PS CC under Image/Adjustments/Grad​ient Map...

Looks promising. I Tried this and it created a good image with more contrast than "desaturate"

Almost any other technique for converting to monochrome will do a MUCH better job than a simple desaturate. Personally I use LR (ACR would be as good) as it actually offers an extra colour channel over PS's Channel Mixer/Black and White tools.

Alan


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joeblack2022
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Jul 31, 2014 11:26 |  #30

Mark check this out:

http://zarias.tumblr.c​om …f-questions-about-effects (external link)


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What Makes a Good Black & White Image?
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