Tips for black and white digital photography

PetaPixel has a nice post by Jeff Meyer: 6 Black and White Photography Tips for Monochrome Enthusiasts.

#1 and #2 are things I’m doing now with my Ricoh GR:

1. Shoot RAW + JPEG

I do this now and use the JPEGs as visual templates for processing the RAWs. Occasionally I’ll use a high contrast JPEG as is because I can’t come close to what the GR is doing internally in Lightroom, like these: Needle ice.

2. Look for Contrast, Shape and Texture

This is seemingly obvious and simple but it’s not and it takes a lot of practice. This is why I have the LCD on my Ricoh GR set to either regular black and white or high contrast black and white, even if I’m just shooting a single RAW file. I want the camera to help me find that visual contrast and shapes and the LCD is quite helpful for that.

In time we can learn to see it on our own but early on it’s useful to set the camera up to help.

The other advice in the post is useful as well. It’s a short read, well worth taking the time for.


  1. Black-and-white conversions from the GR are amazing.

    I shoot with the camera set to RAW only, but usually have the style set to black-and-white just for the view on the LCD.

    Because the RAW files are always colour regardless of the style setting, you can emulate old-style contrast filters when converting to monochrome in Lightroom. By using the colour mixer controls and the curves I suspect that it is possible to mimic almost any style – if only with some practice.

    1. I agree Mark and that’s pretty much the way I work. However, the GR’s native high contrast B&W filter does things that are tough to emulate, try as I might.

      What I’d love is for the GR (a future version of firmware update) to allow us to deconstruct the filters. I’d like the high contrast minus the grain. I like the grain for some stuff but not for all.

      Thanks for weighing in on this stuff. Fascinating. And, of course, the GR is one amazing camera.

  2. Color film scans can also be manipulated like RAW files, as I’m rediscovering. As much as I have liked shooting digital for the past 15 years, I’m really enjoying analog film much more these days.

    1. That’s great to hear Mitch. I started with film and used film through graduate school but once digital came it was all over for me. However, now that I’m old and slow, maybe it’s time to revisit film. 😉

      1. I was doing great with digital… until I was forced to revert back to film for a month while a brand new camera was being repaired (motherboard and CMOS chip both fried just a few days after I received it as a gift).

        I was stunned by the scans I was getting from film; the digital images were so clean that they looked plastic by comparison. I decided then and there that I needed to bring film back into my workflow, but the more I worked with it, the better I liked it.

        So now I’m on the brink of selling off my digital gear and just shooting film.

      2. The great piece is that you went with the flow, saw that you enjoyed the old/new medium and went with it. That’s great. I tend to wait until a change like this is beating me over the head with a bat to see it, great that you saw it early on. I look forward to hearing more about this. Are you processing the film yourself?

      3. I look to be doing my own processing again shortly; the last of the gear I think I need — some dark brown glass bottles — were finally delivered late last evening, with the exception of a Rondinax daylight loading tank (which should arrive by next week).

        I expect I’ll know if I thought it out the developing tools well enough when I process my first roll.

        I last did home developing about a decade and a half ago, and it didn’t go so well for me. This time I’m planning things very differently and am determined to prevail.

      4. Mitch, I hope you do (I’m sure you will). I did my last darkroom work in grad school in 1979/1980 for my MFA show. After that it was Evergreen film service (movie reversal film) which I bulk rolled but had the slides made by Evergreen. The little Kodachrome I shot in those days has done a lot better over time and thank god I had most of my slides scanned within the last year; they’re fading badly now.

        After Olympus XA and Stylist Epic I started on digital with surveillance cameras and MacVision and the like, XAP shot, QuickTake, and on and on…

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