Monochrome.. it’s not that black and white

matt krumins photography

In last weeks Tuesday Tutorial we looked at the JekoPhoto twilight calculator to help us predict the sunrise and sunset times and locations. This tool is amazing for getting the beautiful morning and evening light but what about the rest of the day when most of that colour disappears? This is where black and white photography is my best friend.

To me, black and white can can do a number of things. It can help to eliminate distractions from your subject, it can create a simplification of a complex scene and finally it fixes some things that are out of your control, but black and white isn’t just black and white. I won’t try and relate this back to film days because to be honest, I wasn’t there but in this tutorial I want to show you how you can use both the inbuilt digital filters in your camera or the tools within Adobe Lightroom to completely overhaul your black and white photos to give drastically different looks.

Original Photo

Blue Filter

Red Filter

So much to learn!

Check out my photography and Lightroom workshops

No matter what DSLR or mirrorless camera you are on these days you should have access to Picture Styles (vivid, landscape, portrait, standard, etc) including your black and white shooting mode called Monochrome. Below are some examples from Canon, Nikon and Olympus where you can add a Digital Colour filter to your monochrome, essentially mimicking putting an actual filter in front of the lens. Generally speaking when shooting landscapes and seascapes I like to use a red filter as this creates a more contrasty scene darkening the blues of the skies. Whilst these digital filters do not affect your RAW file (only your JPEG), being able to pre-visualise how you will end up editing your image in Lightroom can be really rewarding when out in the field shooting.

Achieving the filters in-camera

Olympus Picture Styles

Nikon Picture Styles

Canon Picture Styles (the third option ‘N’ is the colour filter)

For those who are processing your images in Lightroom, these same digital filters are available in two different forms: presets, and manual configuration. Presets (see number 1 in the image below) allow you to choose very selective filters to brighten or darken sections of your black and white image (press V to convert to B&W in the first place). The panel in the editing window (see number 2 in the image below) allows you to very specifically configure your black and white filters giving you incredible control over the final look of your image. To push a particular colour towards black or white simply use the sliders, or alternatively the click the little dot in the top left corner (to the bottom right of my #2 marking, click on the part of the image you wish to darken or lighten and slide your mouse.

So whilst Black and White might seem like a simple one-size-fits-all solution there is in actual fact a huge amount of flexibility in how an image can be converted! So get out there and start experimenting!!!


File converted with the below Lightroom specifications

Original image

By applying a Red Filter (dropping the blues) skies can turn a dramatic black.