Next Time, Consider Shooting Monochrome

“The whole series is black-and-white, so when I went to shoot one of the women I only had black-and-white film with me. She had reddish hair and was a very pretty girl, a nice girl.”— Helmut Newton

When I find myself wondering, “what do I shoot next?” or starting the think “there’s nothing to photograph,” one thing I like to do is to shoot some images in direct monochrome mode. It doesn’t have to be all of the images made during a session; maybe just a few to see what happens. But what if you change your mind and really really want that original at some later date to be in color?

These days most cameras have a RAW+JPEG option that lets you capture a monochrome (JPEG) and color (RAW) file at the same time. Some dual-slot cameras, even let you simultaneously save each file type to a different card. This approach lets you use the JPEG file as a digital proof you can show the subject but a color RAW file that you can process into black and white later.

An alternative is to capture in color and convert to monochrome later in the digital darkroom that’s not a bad idea either. And there are some advantages to this, the biggest being that my favorite retouching tools, such as Imagenomic’s’ Portraiture and Anthropics’ Portrait Professional, work better with color files, so more often than not when shooting portraits I shoot in color and convert to monochrome later using Adobe Photoshop and/or Silver Efex Pro.

A Borrowed Camera. This boudoir-style portrait of model Pamela Simpson was shot with my wife’s Nikon D5100 and the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens (at 55mm.) Exposure was 1/160 sec at f/9 and ISO 200 and was shot in color in my home studio. Initially retouched using Portraiture, then converted to monochrome in Silver Efex Pro before final tweaking with Color Efex Pro. The main light uses a Plume Ltd hexagonal Wafer softbox.

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 9.13.43 AM


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

Author: Joe Farace

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