Why Not Let the Camera or Photoshop Create Your B&W Image?
I’ve spoken to a number of people who have assumed that I create my b&w images by putting my camera into monochrome mode or by simply desaturating my color images in Photoshop.
That’s not how I create my black and white images, but why not? Why not let the camera or Photoshop do the work for me?
Here’s why: If I let my camera create the black and white image, then all I’d have is a color image that had been stripped of color. A great black and white image is much more than that, it’s an image that I’ve added something to, my Vision.
I capture my images in color so that I can convert them into black and white myself. What can I can do that the camera or Photoshop cannot do?I know the potential of the image: the camera and Photoshop does not. I know what detail is in the image that can be brought out: the camera and Photoshop does not. I know how to create the look I want by manipulating colors into different shades of gray: the camera and Photoshop does not. I know how to dodge and burn to emphasize certain elements and to de-emphasize other elements: the camera and Photoshop does not. But most importantly, I have a Vision of what I want the image to look like: the camera and Photoshop does not.
If you compare one of my original color shots to a desaturated image, and then compare both to my final image…you’ll see a world of difference. Here’s my Iceland No. 4 to illustrate:
This is what the color image looked like right out of the camera.
Here’s what the image looks like if you let the camera create the b&w image or you simply desaturate it in Photoshop.
And here’s what it looks like after I’ve converted it to b&w using my knowledge of the original scene, my technical skills and most importantly…my Vision.
Letting the camera create the b&w image for me or simply desaturating it in Photoshop will never produce a great black and white image. But by processing the image myself, I’m adding to the image and leaving my mark.
Now I’ve talked to a lot of people who have seen my before-and-after images and I know how some people will react: they will conclude that the “secret” to my images are my processing skills and they will think that all they need to do to create better images is to improve their processing skills.
But that is exactly NOT my point!
Learning processing skills without the Vision to drive them, is not much different than letting the camera create the black and white image for you or simply desaturating it in Photoshop. If you don’t know what you want, then better processing skills will not improve your images.
Why don’t I let the camera or Photoshop create my black and white images? Because they are simply tools and cannot convey my Vision.
P.S. For those who might wonder: I convert my images to b&w using Photoshop’s b&w conversion tool. I do not use plugins or b&w conversion programs.