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Shoot black and white for more high-fives

MattKrumins Tutorials

Have you ever woken up and gone out for a big day of photography only to feel like every shot was kind of boring? Maybe it was overcast with no ‘golden light’ or maybe it was crystal clear blue skies with very few clouds to create interest. In these situations many of us snap a couple of shots, shrug our shoulders and try something different, potentially missing out on a brilliant image because of one major flaw that many of us succumb to… an inability to see into the future DUN DUN DAAAAN! (dramatic music for effect).

One of the best things about us humans is that we are not future predicting robots but in photography that can have a downside too. What I mean by this really is that we often lack the ability to look ahead at an images potential, instead opting for an emotional response where we take our cues from the instant image on the back of our camera. On an dull day or a blue sky day this instant preview doesn’t really tantalise the senses and instead we walk away disappointed without taking into account how our RAW file might be edited in the future.

What difference do you think it would make to you if the image on the back of the camera looked amazing? Would you persevere and try and perfect the composition, settings and style? Of course you would. A great preview image on the back of the camera turns a sad moment into a little high-five from your camera, encouraging you to push the boundaries of what you thought was possible with the scene in front of you.

Despite being a ‘boring light day’ (see left photo) the image on the right gets me excited about the scene, a little ‘camera high-five’. The right has been taken with a high contrast black and white with ‘red filter’ engaged in-camera.


So how do we get more high-fives and less sadness?


  • High Five 1

    On an overly-blue sky or overcast day I choose to shoot in high contrast black and white. This usually gives me a brilliant preview image, eliminating the lack of colour and replacing it with pure silver awesomeness.

  • High Five 2

    Engage your shadow/highlight recovery on your camera. On an Olympus it’s usually preset to the FN2 button (looks like a little square with an ’S’ through it), on Nikon it’s called “Active D-Lighting” (sounds dramatic) and on Canon it’s called Auto Lighting Optimizer (ALO). This will automatically recover some of the darker and brighter information to display it in a more ‘viewable way’ leaving you with a much prettier preview on the camera.

  • High Five 3

    Last but not least, turn up the clarity and sharpening if you have access to it, this will give your preview on the camera a little ‘punch and 3-dimensional pop’.

The best part? By shooting in RAW I’m not actually committing to keeping my black and white/shadow recovered/high clarity production of the scene as it will convert back to standard colour when imported onto the computer. Instead it is simply showing me a ‘better version’ of the scene for encouragement (Note this isn’t the case for JPEG files).

I’ll be completely honest here, I actually shoot black and white most of the time because I know I can always adjust colour in post-processing and it really helps to eliminate distractions and lets me focus on tones and composition. In my experience black and white on the back of a camera (outside of colourful sunrises and sunsets) gives a more pleasing rendition on the photo and really has no side effects if you plan on processing your images.

So there you have it, my quick way to get more ‘camera high fives’, more encouragement and better results through perseverance and all it takes is a couple of button clicks!

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