Black and White – In Camera Or Post Processing

All modern digital cameras will have an option to shoot in black and white nowadays. This gives rise to the question of whether one shoot shoot black and white from the outset or shoot in colour and convert the resulting colour image to black and white during post processing.

Opinions are split on this subject. Of course, if you do not have the facility to post process, your choice is made for you. – You rely upon your camera’s ability to shoot black and white. However, this situation should not really arise as there are a number of free and / or open source applications that will accomplish post processing to a high standard. Lightzone which has already been reviewed is one such application.

There are those that will argue that to shoot in Black and white from the outset will make the photographer think more about the artistic and compositional aspects of the resulting image. Clearly there is some merit in this if only because you have to be aware of how your camera handles the convertion to black and white.

Many ‘purists’ will argue that relying on software such as Photoshop or Lightroom encourages sloppy photography. I do not entirely agree but I guess that, again, there may be some merit in this argument

Speaking from personal experience, it is very easy to produce very flat looking black and white images in camera. Then again, not all colour images convert well to black and white.

This latter point is perhaps the most important consideration if one is intentionally setting out to produce a black and white image from a colour original. I say ‘intentionally’ deliberately. I don’t suppose that I am the only one that will occasionally wonder how a particular colour shot would transfer to black and white.

I am afraid that I cannot be too scientific about my arguments but to be honest, I can’t help feeling that relying upon a camera designed primaraly for colour photography to process black and white is always going to be second best to post processing. The extent to which one post processes is down to the individual, not to mention what software they have available.

Of course, if one shoots in RAW all the information is available however one chooses to produce the finished article. Why let the camera decide what shade of grey a particular colour should be converted to?

This last point is perhaps one of the most important considerations when shooting with the intention of later converting to black and white. No amount of post processing will rescue a bland image. If the detail isn’t there … it isn’t there! Yes, some images can be rescued but at the end of the day, a good shot is the prerequisite for a good finished image.

These are just my initial thoughts on the subject. I intend returning to it later as this site develops. I would be pleased to hear the observations of others.

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