Shoot in monochrome or use PP?

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by trucarp, Mar 19, 2013.

  1. trucarp

    trucarp Mu-43 Rookie

    Feb 20, 2013
    Hi Folks:
    Pretty new here and extremely impressed by the quality of photos and advice! My question is: does it make any difference to the final black and white IQ if I shoot in monochrome, versus using to turn my colour JPEG into B and W?

    Thanks for such a great community of great photogs!

  2. AceAceBaby

    AceAceBaby Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jan 21, 2013
    If you shoot raw+jpeg you could try both ways at once. The raw file will be colour and you could export it and convert in Or you could open it in the camera software (Viewer 2 for Olympus) which gives some more options for monochrome conversion such as colour filters and tones to apply, which can do interesting/nice things with the output over a basic desaturation.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. edwardconde

    edwardconde Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 8, 2012
    Los Angeles, CA
    I have dialed in my monotone settings to where i like them. Most of the time I hardly have to do much PP.
  4. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    Unless you use a camera with a monochrome sensor such as the Leica M Monochrom, you're shooting in colour and doing a conversion to monochrome. The question is whether you do it in camera or later.

    You really have 5 options available to you in your camera settings:

    1) camera saves the image as a monochrome JPEG and throws the RAW data away;

    2) camera saves the image as a monochrome JPEG and also as a RAW colour file;

    3) camera saves the image as a colour JPEG and throws the RAW data away;

    4) camera saves the image as a colour JPEG and also as a RAW colour file;

    5) camera saves the image as a RAW colour file.

    In all except option 1 you have the choice of doing a conversion later from a colour file in post processing. In 0ptions 2, 4 and 5 you can do the conversion from a RAW file and in option 4 you could also do it from the colour JPEG. In option 3 you could only do it from the colour JPEG.

    I use Lightroom, not and I don't know what the capacities of are but the big advantage of doing the conversion in post processing in my view is this: because you have the colour data available you can mimic the effect of various filters used by B&W film photographers such as yellow, red, blue and green filters to change the tonal values of different parts of the screen in order to darken or lighten elements such as sky, grass, and skin tone. Option 1 throws away the colour data so that all you have left is the option to play with tonal values via exposure/brightness and contrast controls and those aren't going to change the tonal value of one area relative to another. Your camera may give you options to mimic a particular filter but whatever choice you make is locked in and can't be varied later. You need access to the colour data if you want to try to mimic the effect of several filters unless you want to take multiple shots of the same scene, changing the settings for each shot.

    Over and above that, there are several advantages to doing the conversion from a RAW file. You can vary the colour temperature with a RAW file and that changes the colour rendition of the file which can result in some effects you can get no other way. By reducing the colour temperature, for example, the colour file takes on a bluish tinge making it look like a moonlight shot, and that feel carries over into the converted monochrom image. You cannot change the colour temperature of a colour JPEG file. In addition working with RAW means you're working with a wider range of luminance information which can be a big advantage when converting to monochrome because the difference in tonal values in a monochrom image is simply the difference in luminance value for the different areas of the image. Finally, you have more scope for recovery of highlight and shadow information from a colour file and that can make a noticeable difference to your extreme highlights and shadows in a converted monochrome image.

    So, converting a colour JPEG in pp gives you some advantages over shooting monochrome JPEGs in camera and converting RAW files in pp gives you some additional advantages over converting colour JPEGs in pp.

    The big question is how big are those advantages. First, if you're going to get something out of those theoretical advantages you need to put some time and effort into learning how to not only do monochrome conversions but also into how to process colour images because the first steps in the conversion process often revolve around working with the image in colour to get it to the point where the image will convert with the kind of tonal values you're looking for. Second, some images will benefit more than others. In some cases the advantage may be minimal and in some it may be so great that the difference between an out of camera monochrome JPEG and an image converted later in pp could be astounding. It really can make a big difference but it can take skill to realise that difference and it takes time and work to develop skill.

    You do have option 2 available to you, to save your images in 2 files one of which is a monochrome JPEG and the other a RAW file. You need only work with the RAW file if you can't get enough out of your monochrome JPEG, and you also have the monochrome JPEG available to you as an indication of what you need to be aiming at equalling or bettering when you work on the image.

    So that's the way I see it. Yes, doing the conversion later in pp can make a big difference but it also takes time, effort and skill. If you want to put in the time and effort and you really want to try and get the maximum from your images then you need to go the route of converting RAW files. If that approach doesn't appeal to you there are still some benefits to converting colour JPEGs in pp. If you want to work the simplest and easiest way possible, then simply shoot monochrome JPEGs and leave it at that. There's nothing wrong with doing it that way provided you're happy with the results you get that way.
    • Like Like x 3
  5. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    I believe the power of your non-camera computer coupled with a sophisticated post processing program will give you greater control and more options than what your on-board camera computer can deliver when converting a color image into B&W. I went to "" and they're a paint manufacturer, so if you're gonna hand paint your color images into B&W ... I really wouldn't recommend that methodology ... but if that's your thing, damn ... more power to you. I do want to see the final product.

  6. twalker294

    twalker294 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 18, 2010
  7. GFFPhoto

    GFFPhoto Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2013
    Shoot Mono JPEG +RAW and have both
  8. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Great summary, David!

    My quick take is this:

    If you want the lowest effort method, you can get good results by shooting B&W in camera. I would suggest using a low contrast setting and then adjusting the contrast of that JPEG in or your image processor of choice.

    If you want the best results, shoot RAW and learn to process RAW files to B&W.

    My Lightroom approach is as follows:
    Saturation: -100
    Clarity: Boost to taste (Usually +20 or higher)
    Contrast: Boost to taste (Usually +20 or higher)
    Highlights: Reduce to taste (to bring back detail in highlights)
    Shadows: Boost to taste (to bring back detail in shadows)
    Blacks: Reduce to taste (to make blacks black)
    Temp and Exposure: Adjust to taste (usually reducing the temp will have a similar effect to reducing exposure but differentially affecting the way colors are converted to B&W)

    It's basically a desaturation method, which is less powerful than tweaking the colors individually for the conversion, but I like to keep it simple, and the ability to change temp introduces some control over how colors are handled.
  9. homerusan

    homerusan Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 25, 2012
    izmir, TURKEY
    i generally open raw file in camera raw (colored) and start to process with first tab like exposure clarty black lights contrast saturation.. Etc. i never set saturation to 0 here. Then i adjust detail tab for more sharpness and noise control. And then i choose convert to grayscale and adjust each color for more control. Lastly i adjust lights darks highlights etc from graph... camera raw generally gives what i want. if i need and adjustment on an specific area i open the file after adjustments and select then adjust with image > adjustments..
    this eay generally gives me more color control esspecially in b&w.
  10. janneman

    janneman Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 6, 2012
    Jan (John) Kusters
    I usualy set the camera to RAW+Jpeg, with the Jpeg in monochrome. This gives me some black&white feedback while shooting, but in PP I start with colour RAW and do the conversion myself. It allows me to adjust tones a lot more (usualy I darken the reds and brighten the blues a little before conversion, to get closer to the Agfapan fims I used back when dinosaurs roamed the world).
    I don't know the program you mentioned, but I would start out with RAW+Jepg to keep all options open.
  11. trailguru

    trailguru Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 9, 2012
    Somerset, England
    Answer the question

    You've had some great advice but to answer your original question:

    Does it make any difference to the final black and white IQ if I shoot in monochrome, versus using to turn my colour JPEG into B and W?

    Yes it does. PP will give creative control you might well enjoy, both with RAW and with JPEG files.

    If you get enthusiastic about B&W images try GIMP for PP (it's free) or Photoshop Elements and get techniques off the Net. And if you go on to print them consider buying a printer with a selection of black inks to capture all those subtle tones.
  12. rnagoda

    rnagoda Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 12, 2012
    Tucson, AZ
    Similarly to what has been said already, but just to reinforce the idea, I set my picture style to b&w in camera, but I shoot in RAW. This means I "see" the black and white image while I'm shooting, but when I import it into my software it's in color (unprocessed) and I can make the b&w conversion however I like, based on the particular image and my current notion of what's "good". For me, this extra flexibility is the primary reason to have invested in good equipment in the first place.
  13. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
  14. digitalandfilm

    digitalandfilm Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 18, 2011
    When I was a teenager, I worked in a mechanical shop and the foreman was always sending me to "go-fer" this tool and that tool. He always said "Use the *proper* tool!".

    I use the "proper tool" for B&W- Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.0!

    The amount of options, presets, film-emulation, editing, etc., it is invaluable.

    Sure- you can do B&W in LR, PS, Paint Shop Pro, etc- but the NIK plug-in is designed to work strictly with conversions to B&W.

    I'm not really sure what the advantage of NIK's saving files in TIFF format, but if they do it- there must be a reason.

    You can try & buy here: Nik Software, Inc. | Downloads
  15. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    Probably ecause its a universally readable file format....TIFF is an industry standard image file format - it retains all the information of the source bitmap - unlike JPEG which throws away information in order to create a smaller file.

  16. Iansky

    Iansky Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 26, 2009
    The Cotswolds, UK
    I personally shoot everything in Raw and if my aim is to produce a B&W image then I do basic editing in Lightroom then use Silver Efex pro2 as my standard B&W conversion package.

    This is very much a personal preference and will not work for everyone but for the images I take it works well and I am very happy with the results.

    If you are interested, you can download a free trial and see how you get on - the link is here:
    The World's Leading Black and White Software

    Good luck.
  17. Tapper

    Tapper Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 12, 2013
    Wow, it costs $200?! :eek:

    If you're shooting professionally for a client who needs b/w, I guess it's worth it. But for me, an amateur enthusiast, I'll stick to simpler, cheaper (and free) methods. :tongue:
  18. digitalandfilm

    digitalandfilm Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 18, 2011
    If you are a student, or pay for a child that's a student, :)thumbup:) you qualify for "academic" pricing.. $99.00

    Go to: Nik Software, Inc. | Purchase
  19. twalker294

    twalker294 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 18, 2010
    Nik is VERY proud of their software. It's good but awfully steep.
  20. janneman

    janneman Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 6, 2012
    Jan (John) Kusters
    Back in film days, I spend more money on and in my dark room then on camera's, lenses and lights. When I look how much I have spend on my digital camera and lenses, and realise the second half of making a picture is done in post processing, it makes it a little easier for me to spend money on a computer and specialised software...
    • Like Like x 1
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.