Saturday, February 22, 2014

Black and White Book Club: week 5 (Feb. 24-28)

Welcome to the fifth and final week of our Black and White Book Club study of Michael Freeman's of Michael Freeman's The Complete Guide to Black and White Digital Photography (or the Black and White Photography Field Guide. Be sure to read the overview and week 1, week 2, week 3, and week 4 posts if you are just joining in. Everyone is welcome to participate, even without a copy of either book, but if you do have the book, you will have more to draw on during the month.

Week 5, Feb. 24-28, will focus on Putting it All Together – a final week to go back to your favorite or most challenging ideas or styles of black and white photography. You can also explore topics not covered in the weeks above, such as Grain or High ISO photographs or HDR, Tone Mapping, and Adding Tints. We will be covering pgs. 62-67,166-187/60-65, 166-185 (optional processing pages: 122-137/120-137. (For the curious, we are not covering section four, as Printing & Display is not really applicable to the actual process of black and white photography.)

Black and White Snowscape | Boost Your Photography

Continuing with Creative Choices in Black and White Photography

This week we will finish the second half of the Creative Choices in Black and White chapter (pgs. 166-187) and add in the Film Qualities chapter from section one (pgs. 62-67). There are many different black and white techniques covered in these pages, and you are welcome to explore any or all of them or spend the week going back to ideas from earlier in the book.

The film qualities section provides an interesting historical overview of the physical reasons behind 'grain' in film photographs. In our digital-oriented world, we tend to conflate film grain with the 'noise' of higher ISO digital photographs, even though the process and results are quite different. These chapters demonstrate some interesting ways of using 'grain-like' effects to add a certain look to your digital image. Consider trying some grain effects or film emulators with your photographs this week.

Black and White HDR of Stage | Boost Your Photography
Overture Center, Capital Theater, 3-shot HDR by Archaeofrog on Flickr

The chapters on HDR in black and white provide an overview of HDR processing (using a series of bracket shots or even tonemapping an individual photograph). Several different methods and programs are discussed, but in the end, "Tonemapping calls for experiment" (pg. 180/).

The final chapters are about the process of adding tints or mimicking other older styles of photography. Monochrome does not have to strictly mean black and white photography, and these chapters explore toning and split-toning effects, such as sepia or cyanotype. Try incorporating some of these effects in your photography this week. (For Ace members, PicMonkey has a variety of such effects available.)

Self-portrait in the style of Julia Margaret Cameron. Effects added to mimic daguerreotype style.

Delving in to "Digital Monochrome" chapters

This week's optional section on digital processing considers issues related to skin tones and handling opposite or adjacent hues (pages 122-137/120-).

For the skin tones section, Freeman does an interesting comparison of how a small section of the skin changes through each of the processing steps. (In Photoshop, if you click on the 'info' tab above where the histogram is displayed, it gives you the option to then make a selection and receive the RGB and HSB readings that Freeman keeps referencing.) Particularly interesting in this section is how our eyes 'interpret' color from black and white and how slight changes in brightness can be read by our eyes as 'tan.'

Freeman provides several examples of the steps along the way toward processing a complex black and white image, particularly one where you want to treat objects with similar hues differently. Consider perhaps taking screen shots of your own processing steps along the way to share with the group this week.

Multiple Ways to Join the Book Club

It is not to late to join! Post a comment with your thoughts or a link to a picture you have taken for the Book Club and an explanation of how the book influenced your image. Or, you can post pictures and contribute to the discussion by joining the Photography Book Club Group on Flickr.

Parting thought for the week: as we reach the end of our month of black and white, how do you feel that the experience has helped you or changed your photography? What do you know or understand now that perhaps you did not at the beginning?

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