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How To Shoot Monochrome

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Category: Portraits and People

Quick Tips On Shooting Monochrome - If you're off to a festival or carnival try shooting in monochrome.

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If our Photo Month entry earlier this month has got you tempted to go to Edinburgh for the Festival Fringe, either this month or even another year, here is something else to try: shoot monochrome.

Monochrome Image


Most digital cameras have the option to shoot monochrome, sepia or even toned monochrome images. Take a look at your camera's manual or menu to see what filters are available. Of course you can always shoot in colour and edit your images during post production. Do ensure that your monitor is calibrated correctly if this is what you plan on doing so you know the tones etc. you see are accurate. For more tips on calibration and colour management, take a look at EIZO ColorZone

If you are shooting in JPEG quality only, it is worth bearing in mind that you cannot later decide that your monochrome images look better in colour because you are stuck with images comprising of grey shades. There is no reverting back to colour from a monochrome-shot JPEG – this is a good reason to shoot both JPEG and RAW to cover both options.

The skill of great colour photography is about the successful use of colour harmony, saturation and hues to induce atmosphere or mood. In black & white it is more about the use of contrast and texture.

The default contrast setting of some monochrome modes can be quite low and images taken on this setting can end up looking rather flat so it's worth doing a few test shots to see how your camera performs. If you have a camera that gives good contrast to black & white images - great!  but if the results don't quite have enough punch, increase the contrast manually to make the image bolder. One way to do this would be with exposure compensation, however if you intend working further on your images via the computer you can do the hard work then.

You might also prefer to use a higher ISO rating than normal to make more of a feature of camera's digital noise which can simulate film grain. Again, should you prefer, 'grain' can be added at the computer stage. Do remember that digital noise isn't the same as grain, though so care does need to be taken when experimenting with it. 

When shooting in monochrome it helps if you have tonal contrast in your image. What this means is when shooting in monochrome light colours turn into highlights while darker colours take on a dark tone and by having a full range of tones in your shot (greater tonal contrast), you'll create a monochrome image with more impact. 

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