I have had several requests over the last few months to write up some details on my way of processing black and white photographs. It's very flattering to be asked, and also quite daunting to try to write up my thoughts and processes. After all, it's one thing to read other photographers' blogs but quite another to consider doing it yourself without coming across as big headed!
What I will do in this blog is post several photographs, showing the original RAW file straight out of the camera (SOOC), and describing my processes to get to what I consider a finished article. Now obviously black and white images have no colour (unless you're looking for that 90's selective colour look, in which case please look elsewhere!), so therefore texture, light, shape/form and strong composition are paramount. There is no right or wrong way to process an image as a black and white photograph - it's up to you and your taste. I'm not going to be preaching how to 'see in black and white' or how to compose your images correctly but just show you a different way to add character to photographs that you take.
I seem to have come across, through trial and error, a workflow that provides a character to the end photograph that I like and gives a clean and crisp look to a monochrome image. A couple of people who have replied on threads in photo forums have said that they know the image is mine from the look, without seeing who the author is. That's both very flattering and humbling, and it must show that I'm doing something right!
Where I live (in Dubai, United Arab Emirates), the light is often very flat, contrast is low, and everything has a thin veil of sandy dust - the sky, the land, the photographer, his kit, everything! This means that once I started to try to take my photography seriously I had to learn some post processing techniques. Whenever I travel overseas to a country which isn't sandy it feels as if I have had a cataract removal operation. Golden hours do exist, skies are blue without resorting to the saturation and hue sliders in photoshop, it's incredible! However, seeing as 95% of my photographs are made in the sandpit I needed to learn PP and fast. Consistency was something that I wanted as well as ease of use. Eventually I tried Nik Software's Colour Efex plug-in. I have to say that I'm not affiliated to Nik Software in any way (I wish!) and there are other software houses which produces similar suites as plug-ins for Photoshop and Lightroom. But to me, Nik Software was very intuitive from the word go, allows me to save templates, and gives me that consistency. What it's not so good at is batch processing (as least on my versions of the software) but that's easily outweighed by it's output.
Excited by Colour Efex, I decided to try Silver Efex. Now this software is something else, and provided me with exactly what I needed. Beautiful black and white conversions with the minimum fuss and complete consistency.
So over the coming months I will post photographs in this blog showing exactly what I've done to get from start to finish. What I consider 'finished' may not be the same as you, the reader. That's the beauty of black and white in my non photographically trained mind - the artistic license! All photographs in the Monochrome section of my portfolio are converted using Silver Efex so if you have any questions regarding anything then please get in touch.