Tuesday, September 6, 2022

A Trick for Better B&W Photography


In this issue:

  • A Trick for Better B&W Photography
  • It’s Cameracraft Magazine’s 10-year Anniversary!
  • OM-1 Ebook - All Formats Now Available
  •  Living in a Van Down by the River
  • My Next Zoom Lecture

A Trick for Better B&W Photography 

Want to get impressive B&W images?  Want to train your photographic eye to explore texture, light, and composition?  Black-and-White photography has historically been the training ground of all the great photographers.  But unlike them, you don’t have to learn things like film selection, development variables, the zone system, darkroom techniques, choosing a contrast grade paper for printing, or coating your lungs with chemical vapors.  Rightly or wrongly, the general population tends to label black-and-white images as being more “artistic”, so here’s your chance to jump-start your reputation.

It turns out your digital camera has a tool that lets you pre-visualize the outcome so you end up looking for the light and shadow instead of for the color.  Here’s the secret: Put your camera into B&W mode.  (Every camera company calls it something different.  Sony calls it “Creative Styles” or “Creative Look”.)  When in B&W mode the camera will preview the image for you so you can see how it will come out.  Use the exposure compensation control to make sure your subject doesn’t blow out when placed in a sea of shadow.

But wait!  You should also shoot in RAW+JPG mode as well.  Why?  Because the RAW files will be in full color, giving you the freedom to change how the individual colors translate to specific shades of grey.  It’s a way to get exceptional control over the look of your B&W images, and it’s much more versatile than just shooting with B&W film.

Want an example?  Here’s a color picture which has been converted to B&W five different ways.  Control!  I explain how to do the conversion in a blog post from a whopping 10 years ago (!) which you ought to look at.  (Click on the image to view it larger.)

If you’re on Instagram, there’s a curated series of images made this way which is worth your while to peruse.  It's called Incredible_BNW and you can find it here.  There's also a curated Facebook group called Street Photography Cartier-Bresson Inspired which, while not quite as good in my opinion, still has some outstanding B&W vision and technique in there.  Look for it here.

Have you used this technique to take some high-impact black-and-white shots of your own?  Feel free to post links to them in the comments!

It’s Cameracraft Magazine’s 10-year Anniversary!

If you go back to that blog post from 10 years ago (linked to above) and read through the whole post, you’ll notice I also described a new project to which I was sworn to secrecy at the time, but you all probably know by now that it was the birth of Cameracraft magazine, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year!  Of course I’m tempted to start drolling on about how hard I’ve worked on it, how it probably represents my best and most interesting writing, and how much I've enjoyed highlighting many photographers who are doing interesting and worthwhile things with their cameras.  (Some of my favorites were discussed in this blog post from last year.)  But the fact is David Kilpatrick and his team put in even more work in creating and assembling content so I can’t make this celebration all about me.  Cameracraft remains one of the few magazines left that actually talk about photography, and has insights into gear review that you just don’t find in publications that rely on pleasing their advertisers. 

Cameracraft is now available as a digital edition as well as the best-printing-in-the-business-and-great-to-hold-in-your-hand edition.  The digital edition is even better for the environment, you can get it as a top quality PDF download or an App from Pocketmags for Kindle, Apple, PC, and all devices. 

You can also subscribe to the print version of Cameracraft here and join our readership helping create a truly independent magazine!

OM-1 Ebook - All Formats Now Available

Tony Phillips’ best-selling ebook on the OM Digital (formerly Olympus) OM-1 is now available in more formats: Printed in color and B&W, .epub, and .azw3 (for Kindle).  Purchase the formats you want from here And if you purchased the book, let people know how much you like it!  (Preferably online where others will see it. J )

Living in a Van Down by the River

We moved out of our house on August 31st, but our new house won’t be ready until October sometime.  (Maybe.)  (Perhaps.)  So we put everything into storage (again) and we’re living in a motor home until then, staying in an RV park close to the new home to supervise the finishing touches. 

I’ve never considered Recreational Vehicles to be “camping” when I was growing up.  To me, camping meant a tent and being cold.  In fact I never spent time in a motor home in my life before we bought one just to travel cross-country during the pandemic.  And I’m still getting used to this strange way of life. 

We’re parked among a slew of RV enthusiasts, whose rigs are so large some have a fireplace and two bathrooms.  People here seem happy (except for the domestic shouting match in the trailer next door as I write this); the kids ride their bikes everywhere and frolic in the lake, and we've met some nice retirees here who have made this their lifestyle.  I've taken some pictures.   I’m going through withdrawal because this campground is a dead zone for cell service and the camp’s pitiful wi-fi can’t accommodate all 120 people (and their kids).  

I'll add to that photo archive as time goes on...

My Next Zoom Lecture

There's a club you can join called MyPhotoClub ( https://myphotoclub.co.uk ) which is an online community for photography enthusiasts to connect with each other and develop their skills.  They conduct weekly Live Zoom Talks on photography for less than 4 British Pounds.  And the lineup of guest speakers Roy Morris (the founder) has amassed from around the world has been very impressive.  His website is growing - he'll soon offer recordings of past speakers for sale individually.

I bring this up because I'll be one of his guest speakers on September 15th, and you're certainly welcome to join the fun!  

Don't forget I can do this for your photo club too!  Get in touch with me at Gary at Friedman Archives dot com.

Yours Truly, Gary Friedman

I knew the image would come out this way before I took it... :-)


  1. I lived in an RV for a while and it was a long, strange trip, indeed.
    I still enjoy shooting B&W but have become rather picky about it. To me, black & white can be all about lines and shadows, as well as shimmering graytones used to support the subject. I like to create ''period pieces'' in which I eliminate all modern references to create an image that looks like it is from many years ago. Buildings, cars, clothes, hairstyles and hats can be used as visual cues to set a modern picture back into the past.
    I like this train picture because it could have been shot yesterday or 100 years ago.

  2. Thanks Gary, and yes the first email didn't come through for some reason


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