Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Black & White Photography... quickie tip

This might appeal to like 10 of you... but I thought I'd post a bit about my photography background (or lack of ;) and give a tip or two.

A friend (Manda) texted me this photo of one of my pictures that had been chosen in a contest a year or so ago;  with moving to Florida, I was unable to make the grand opening of the center, thus losing my chance on viewing what the judges had picked. 

Here's the picture:
(the models are my crazy beautiful cousins, maddie & keegs)

Where am I going with all this?  Finding this photo, took me on a bit of a hunt.  Clicking through old facebook albums, browsing through photos, etc.  The album I found this pic in was called "photography stuff." 

I have to say, when I clicked the album open, I cringed.  The pictures in there, aside from a few, are...umm... not the greatest.  I was learning.  (HECK I am still very much learning) but it was eye opening to say the least.  I thought I was rockin' that camera! 

I have a good photog friend, Suzie , who generously came over one morning shortly after I had purchased my first camera (beloved little rebel... check amazon side widget to see my all time fave. go-to/starter/no-fail camera:).

She clicked around on the thing, twisting knobs, turning dials, and I remember thinking "Holy cow.  All I want to do is take pictures of my kids!"  I was overwhelmed and was tempted to return the whole contraption and switch back to a point and shoot. 

I literally sat with a notebook and pen, taking notes (I'm an obsessive note taker):

  • iso
  • Av mode??? 
  • white balance
Before leaving, she said "Ash, you'll get it.  Not today, or any time soon but you'll get it.  Don't cheat and put it on automatic."  (that's suzie- very blunt... love ya girl ;)

And that was that.

She had set the mode to manual and I think more out of fear I'd mess something up, than anything I kept it exactly as Suzie had left it. 

I fiddled with the shutter speeds and aperture, trying to remember what she said about lighting and the bazillion other factors that go into taking a decent picture in manual mode.

Here are the pictures that came out, directly after Suzie left my house:



So they're not God awful and excuse the crappy brushed arrows....  But I thought these photos seriously kicked some butt. 

But to compare, here's a black and white I took a few days ago:


Picture 1:
  • the contrast, that really makes or breaks a good black and white picture is not there.  Like, at all.
  • I had my flash on. #1 no, no.  Unless you're into studio photography and you're using lights, diffusers and an external flash, keep that sucker DOWN. 
  • I color popped my sons eyes.  Just don't.  Don't do that.
  • I have no idea what my settings were, but it's obvious my settings, along with the flash (eek) caused some major over-exposure.  And I like over exposed pictures... (not crazy over over exposed, but I normally lean towards over exposing verses under)

Picture 2:
  • It was in focus (hah!) the little things that make such a difference, right?? :)
  • It was outside, in natural light.  Flash nowhere to be found.
  • My ISO was probably set around 300/350 which is just ideal... making for a very clean, sharp image.
  • The contrast is much more to my liking.  A true black and white photo.
  • nothing is color popped.  Amen.

If you're just starting out on your photog journey, first of all (hold on tight!  It's craziness!).  Secondly, there are just a few simple, easy peasy tips and tricks you can utilize to avoid the mottled/lacking contrast/blown out black and white photos.

Tip 1:  Turn your camera to MANUAL mode.  And learn how to use it that way.  There are a ton of great videos on youtube about how to adjust your settings to get the picture that you're looking for.

Tip 2:  Pretend your flash is gone.  Broken.  Whatever.  Just don't use it. 

Tip 3:  For a portrait picture (like the one above) focus on the subjects eyes.  They're the heart and soul of the picture.  It's alright to have the ears, hair, chin, etc. not sharp as a tack, but the eyes- they've gotta have it. 

Tip 4:  Set your ISO to a low setting (as low as lighting conditions will allow). This will make a cleaner b/w photo.

Tip 5:   Post production: My absolute favorite way to convert a photo from color to black and white is in lightroom. If you have lightroom, its the "high contrast black and white" option. I tweak it as needed, but most of the time, its right on. If you don't have access to lightroom, there are b/w actions you can purchase that make conversion a bit easier. When converting, I like a strong contrast; but a little can go a long way. Don't go too over the top where your subject is totally washed out with two black pupils.

Okay... so those are my b/w photog tips.

If anything I hope my two pictures can inspire you to stick with it.  Photography is hard.  It's a never ending learning process.  But that's what makes it crazy fun.

If you have any questions, leave 'em below!  I'd love to answer them (or try!) :D

Happy tuesday!

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