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Tips & Tricks

A Simple and Quick Tip For Shooting Better Black & White Images

By Kishore Sawh on February 13th 2014


A foggy walk with the dogs in Devon, UK

Living in the West, North America primarily, there’s this idea that’s marketed to us that every round faced, rosy-cheeked Italian woman can whip up a culinary delight, the likes of which royalty have only encountered. This is wrong. I’ve been to a host of Italian kitchens which left me bereft of anything other than a newfound respect for that childhood kitchen table friend, Chef Boyardee – a man with whom I no longer associate. Many people believe something similar regarding black and white photos. Essentially that any photo will look good in shades of grey. While art is subjective to taste, the notion that a photo is good, or can be saved by changing it to grayscale, is misplaced.

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Using filters with your camera set to monochrome can be a great help, and with digital you can see quickly how a certain filter color affects your final image. Not everyone is yet adept to using them, or has the required equipment, but most modern DSLRs will give you filter options digitally. Surprisingly, they can be quite effective. It’s a rather simple and quick tool I often use to shoot a test shot, to see which shots will look good in B&W before heading to post processing and finding it just didn’t suit. The example screenshots are from Nikon, but I know Canon has similar menu choices.


F/A-18F of VFA-106 ‘Gladiators’

Something To Consider

Key to understanding this is to understand that B&W doesn’t simply mean all color is removed from the image. The tonality of those colors are varied in lightness and these dictate the look of the final image. Also different cameras, as was the case with film, will represent and interpret color differently, not to mention the paper they are printed on, so it’s not a bad idea to test each beforehand…if you need to be that discerning. NOTE: RAW shooters beware that your images will be in color when uploaded to the computer. You could shoot RAW+JPEG as a solution.

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Tailhook between 2 PW-229s on the business end of an F-15E Strike Eagle

Selecting In-Camera

First, go into Settings and select ‘Set Picture Control’ and then ‘Monochrome.’ Don’t stop there, however, go a step further and you’ll see ‘Filter Effects.’ Scroll down to ‘Toning,’ where you’ll see a scale of colors each able to be even more finely tuned once it’s selected.




What do those colors do? Essentially, the color of filter you select will lighten the tone of that particular color, and make its opposite darker in the final image. For example, a Red filter will generally lighten skin tones, but turn Blue, its opposite, darker. I usually use the red for photographing people and tends to be my go to all round. It is, as stated above, all subjective to the look you are going for, so I encourage you to play around.

CREDITS: All photographs shared by Kishore Sawh are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Basit Zargar


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  2. Matthew Saville

    By the way Kish, in that last screenshot you showed the adjustments currently set to Toning, not Filter Effects. Just to clarify, FILTER EFFECTS is the setting you want to adjust in-camera in order to see a difference in how different colors in the real world “turn into” a B&W tone that is brighter or darker. Here’s an article that demonstrates a few different choices:


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    • Kishore Sawh

      Hey Matt, I actually do mention to go past Filter Effects and go into toning, as that’s where i make the changes. I”ll check out that article still though.

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  3. Matthew Saville

    In-camera B&W is something that has been very dear to my heart for many years now, which is why I often write on the subject too. Look for additional content along these lines in the future!

    I know that some people (RAW die-hards, usually) just don’t understand the allure of “messing around with” in-camera editing if it all just goes away once you get the photos into Lightroom, but I’ve had great experiences (at least emotionally / artistically) using Picture Controls / Picture Styles in the field to help my creative vision. In other words, it’s fun. ;-)


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  4. Augie

    Great info. I have been wanting to shoot more B/W. I’ll have to try the mono setting on my D7000.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      HI Augie, glad you found this of some value. Let us know how you get on with your shooting. Cheers!

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  5. M P

    As a person of Italian descent, I’m wondering why you find it necessary to preface your articles with insults or criticisms of Italians. It’s not the least bit funny and rather unprofessional of you.

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    • David

      MP. Don’t be so sensitive. I was not offended and I am Italian. He wasn’t insulting Italians. Read it again.

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  6. Magnus

    Good tips. However, you should have added “… with a digital camera” to the title ;)

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