Black and white basics
I do not claim to be an expert in black and white photography, I am not being self depreciating by saying this, I really mean it. I recognise a good picture when I see one and a poor one when I see one.
I use Silver efex pro by Nik software which is an excellent program but I am still getting to grips with the deeper aspects of it.
In the mean time I use Aperture 3 which is ok but limited for anyone serious about B&W.
However, from my years of reading books and magazines I have learned a few basics.
Firstly, some subjects make better B&Ws than others, the ones that are not so good often need a great deal of work to make an even reasonable picture.
Secondly, don’t think that by taking a picture in colour and clicking on desaturate that you will end up with a good B&W picture, you won’t.
Start by recognising a good picture when you see one. A poor picture in colour will probably be a poor one in B&W.
Take a look at ‘Robin Bell, silverfootprint’ www.robinbell.com
Robin Bell is a traditional printer of B&W using negatives, chemicals, enlargers and hours in a darkroom with only a red light for company.
He has printed for some of the most famous photographers. On his web page you can see the most fabulous pictures and his book silverfootprint is worth buying if you like looking at B&W pictures.
You will see what a B&W picture should look like, I bought the book and compared the quality of my pictures with his, I realise now how poor my pictures are. I digress.
It is received wisdom that you should take a picture in colour then turn it in to B&W. That way if the B&W does not work out you can go back to the colour version.
As I said before, not all subjects make good B&Ws, you need to visualise your picture in B&W and that is not so easy. You can buy a Kodak wratten 90 filter or similar that you can hold up and look through to give the impression of B&W. Great B&W pictures are about tone, texture and shape, and of course subject.
Going against what I said before I use a Panasonic LX3 that will give you beautiful B&W out of the box. The neat thing is that when you turn it to B&W mode the screen also goes to B&W, as do, I presume, all compacts. This helps in the visualisation.
‘When you photograph people in color you photograph their clothes, when you photograph people in B&W you photograph their souls!” Ted Grant.