Most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras have a built-in monochrome capture mode with some offering scene modes, Canon calls’em Picture Styles, that let you enhance gray tones while making the rest of the colors less vibrant producing an old-fashioned hand-colored look.
The reality is that you can always shoot in color and make these kinds of adjustments after the fact using Adobe Photoshop or your favorite digital imaging software but shooting directly in black & white impacts how you see while you are making the image and getting instant feedback helps focus your vision. For portraits, it also ets you share that vision with the subject. And I’m not afraid of losing the original color image because I can capture color and monochrome image files at the same time and so can you!
Almost all DSLRs or mirrorless cameras offer the ability to simultaneously capture RAW+JPEG files and these same cameras let you to capture monochrome-only images as JPEG files. If you set your camera for RAW+JPEG capture then select the monochrome effect you want, you’ll end up with two files: one in color (RAW) and the other in black and white (JPEG.)
I especially like to shoot RAW+JPEG images when making portraits because the LCD provides a preview of what the black & white image will look like—handy for showing portrait subjects—while the color RAW files is used to produce the finished image. Why? A black & white file only give me 256 grey tones to work with and retouch, while the color file gives 16.7 million possible colors making subtle retouching much simpler and seamless in the finished portrait.
Tip: These days Many digital SLRs that have dual memory card slots let you capture RAW files on one memory card and JPEG image files on the other. Yup, that means you can put all your color RAW files on one card and monochromes on the other. Give it a try.
If you’re interested in shooting portraits and how I use cameras, lenses and lighting, in my in-home studio, please pick up a copy of “Studio Lighting Anywhere” which is available from your favorite book or camera stores as well as Amazon.com, where your purchase helps this blog.