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  • B&W and Low Saturation Shots

    Hey everyone. I've really fallen in love with Black and White and really low saturation images. I've taken a few that I think turned out "ok", but I'm finding that I'm not able to get that "wow" factor. I've included a few links to some of the images I've taken. If anyone has any tips, tricks, or suggestions for shooting with the intent to convert to B&W, I'd love to hear them.

    As always, thanks in advance!

    A View to a Kill (Hookie, yeah I know )
    Timeless, Not Ageless
    Chariot

  • #2
    Re: B&W and Low Saturation Shots

    There are a couple of things I can suggest/recommend.
    First, familiarize yourself (if you haven't already) with the different types of black and white. Most of the black and white styles, ironically, are not black and white, but tinted. Of the classic tones, you have Palladium, Platinum, Silver, Selenium, Sepia, Teal, and a few others. Each one has its own unique character and tint signature. Palladium has a yellow/orange cast, great for nature shots and some people images. Platinum, which is a yellowish gray, is usually very nice for scenic people shots (like wedding poses, for example). Silver is especially nice for low light or shadowed portraiture. It has a mild blue tint (barely detectable) mixed with the gray that gives the image a bright, but cold, appearance. Selenium, often with a reddish brown tint, is very moody and works nice for shots that are meant to be passionate, dark, creepy, or anything else that is meant to convey baser emotions. Sepia is also tinted with a reddish tone (reddish yellow in this instance), and is usually used in older portraiture (it can be great for giving your image an aged appearance). Teal is wonderful for city shots. People, in my personal opinion, don't look all that fantastic with the teal cast ... unless the photograph is showing the person in a suitable background that takes the teal tinting with only a mild showing of the blues in the tone.
    The second thing I can suggest is that you expose your shots with black and white in mind if you are going to shoot with the deliberate intent to convert it. Underexpose silver shots so they have greater depth in contrast. Slightly overexpose a shot headed for a palladium tone so you have a soft effect and not an overwhelming orange cast.
    Again, each tone has its own personality, so you have to compose and expose each shot with the intended black and white tint in mind.
    The third thing I can suggest is that you experiment with the different tones. Sometimes a tone that usually looks horrible on a particular type of photograph might look outstanding in a specific case. So on any photograph you want to convert, try more than one tint style and see what looks nice.

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    • #3
      Re: B&W and Low Saturation Shots

      Blindy,
      Along with AFrazier's excellent advice I would say along with AF's suggestion to see the shot as black and white, get yourself a piece of red translucent plastic. You can find rolls of very thin plastic or cellophane at Hobby Lobby. Take a 6 inch square piece in your camera bag and look through it before you shoot.
      It will take all of the color out of your shot and allow you to see the gradients of black and white.

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      • #4
        Re: B&W and Low Saturation Shots

        Two more worthwhile things would be to study the components of the "Zone System" as developed by Ansell Adams and how it applies to Digital work.

        Another author, and one who has excellent DVD's on B & W, is Katrin Eisenmann who teaches B & W in a unique and complete way. She currently has videos on the NAPP sight (Photoshopusertv.com) that can be partially watched free (as an inducement to join) and are very good.

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        • #5
          Re: B&W and Low Saturation Shots

          I admire your photo skills. You have a great sense of subject matter, composition and bringing out subtle detail, esp. in the barn and stagecoach shots. Unfortunately color contrast is lost in a BW conversion so an eyecatching color pic often morphs into a less interesting low sat or pure BW interpretation.

          To me the wow factor in BW comes from contrast... from the interaction of form, texture and/or grayscale tones.

          I offer these quickly done examples (not so good masking) as food for thought by illustrating the possibilities by pushing things a bit contrast-wise.
          Attached Files

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          • #6
            Re: B&W and Low Saturation Shots

            Oh yes, Danny, you nailed the barn! Ansell would be proud!

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            • #7
              Re: B&W and Low Saturation Shots

              Originally posted by Janet Petty View Post
              Oh yes, Danny, you nailed the barn! Ansell would be proud!
              I think the barn is dead on, and I think that the sky would be improved if there were not so much jet black. Am I wrong here?

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              • #8
                Re: B&W and Low Saturation Shots

                Thanks for all of your suggestions everyone! I'll be back at home this evening from business, and I'll work through the Barn image and see what I can come up with.

                Shooting with a filter to help me "see" the pure contrast is a great idea!

                Thanks again all, it's much appreciated!

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                • #9
                  Re: B&W and Low Saturation Shots

                  I think Danny was going for blotting out the power wires and giving the image a dreary look that sort of matches the mood of the broken down barn. The structure doesn't exactly say "lively" to me.
                  As with any art, to each their own interpretation, right? I kind of like the darkened sky with the selenium toning. It's very moody. It would look nice in a black art-deco type frame with a burgundy matte thinly bordered in white.

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                  • #10
                    Re: B&W and Low Saturation Shots

                    I did a quick bit of playing around with the barn image. I increased the overall black in the image by quite a substantial amount. I'm actually pretty happy with the end result, though I do feel I might have been a bit heavy handed, or perhaps I need to adjust the mid tones to keep from completely losing the detail in the areas which were initially already dark...the foreground corner of the barn for example.

                    I also tried to pick up on accentuate the color that was already in the wood of the barn...again, might have been a bit much on this as well. I do agree that the sky looks more agreeable dark, however I think I prefer a gradient look, but this is simply personal preference. I look forward to hear what you all think! Also, ignore the "down and dirty" cone out of the wires

                    Thanks for your time folks - it's much appreciated!

                    Barn Again

                    Also, I'm thinking a greenish tinge would work well HERE. Thoughts?
                    Last edited by Blindv; 06-17-2008, 08:51 PM.

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                    • #11
                      Re: B&W and Low Saturation Shots

                      I know the tone you're talking about. I've seen it in a few recent magazines.
                      In the end, it only matters what you think about the tone. If you like it, then that's what you should go with. Personally, I thought a nice vintage tone matched the composition of the piano. But that's me.

                      As for the barn, the gradient looked good. It was a nice touch. I did, however, like the selenium tone Danny added to it.
                      Attached Files

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                      • #12
                        Re: B&W and Low Saturation Shots

                        Blindv, you have a good eye and the skills to go with it!

                        I like the barn shot also.

                        Alex is spot on about the different tones of B/W.. which may be what you mean when you say "Low Saturation".. There is a hint of color depending on the contrast or even the angle of view of some of the tones..

                        I think HDRI lends itself well to Black and white (isn't it a form of the Zone sys?)

                        Anyway.., my version of the barn shot
                        Attached Files

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                        • #13
                          Re: B&W and Low Saturation Shots

                          There is most assuredly something to be said about going purely black and white...but I can never seem to quite get there. I find myself leaving just a touch of color, or creating color cast - which just seems to "feel" better..but also lacks the power that a B&W image like your version commands.

                          All things in time, I guess

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                          • #14
                            Re: B&W and Low Saturation Shots

                            I know what you're saying ... but even "pure" black and white images have a hint of color, even when it is seemingly undetectable. Going back to the days of actual black and white photography, your two most "black and white" black and whites were platinum and silver. Yet, one has a yellow cast, the other blue. It's barely noticeable, but it's there. Real black and white isn't black and white. That's why they seem to come alive when you leave a color cast to them. A lack of all color makes an image flat and lifeless.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: B&W and Low Saturation Shots

                              Point of fact, people paid extra for that mild color tint (and the chemical process was dangerous in some cases).

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