There’s more to black and white photography than just a lack of color. As a creative medium, traditionalists may call it “monochrome” while digital imagers may prefer “grayscale,” but to paraphrase Billy Joel, “it’s still black and white to me.”
Black and white is a wonderful media for making portraits and boudoir images because the lack of color immediately simplifies the image, causing you to focus on the true subject of the photograph instead of their clothing or surroundings. Sometimes the nature of the portrait subject demands the image be photographed in black and white.
There are also trendy aspects associated with creating images in black and white. TV, movies and fashion magazines periodically rediscover black and white as a way to present images that are different from what’s currently shown. Right now, many portrait and boudoir photographers tell me that they’re seeing a higher than normal demand for monochrome images than previously was the case.
I like to shoot the original image with the camera set in monochrome mode while using the camera’s RAW+JPEG option. This gives me two files: one color and one monochrome that I use to show the subject (approximately) what the final image will look like. Because there are so many more tones in the color (RAW) file it’s easier to use for retouching. Then I use different monochrome conversions tools, but mostly Silver Efex Pro, which is part of Google’s NIK collection, to convert the final image to black & white.
Joe is the author of Creative Digital Monochrome Effects that’s available from your friendly neighborhood camera store or Amazon.