How to… #BW #Blackandwhite #Photo #Convert #Fujifilm #X-Series #Camera #Adobe #Photoshop #RAW #Google #NIK #SilverEfex

Post by Paul Henni

Making Black and White Images – What We do.

We have been asked quite a few times about how we make our images, so I thought I’d write a wee bit on what we do, the we being me and Lynn, my partner in henni.photo.

Firstly, some background and a disclaimer.  Whilst I have been a happy snapper most of my life, I have only really got going properly with photography since 2013 and have rapidly absorbed a lot of advice on techniques, theory and sources of inspiration from a range of helpful people who have taken the time to answer my, often dumb, questions. Lynn actually studied photography as part of her degree but old school style with film and has also only got going relatively recently with digital.

The disclaimer is therefore, that I am only able to write about what I know obviously and there is a lot that I don’t know.  So here you go – I’ll focus on what I currently do and the kit I use, as it gets confusing if I try to write a combined workflow description for both of us. I hope it is helpful.

Kit

I am  not particularly interested in the fine technical details of kit.  I try to keep the kit simple so I can concentrate on making images. In 2013, I started learning  how to shoot using the manual setting on a Nikon D3200 with 18-55mm lens, ideal for beginners. I did some research, got some advice and subsequently upgraded to a Fujifilm XE-2 with 18-55mm lens.

Using the Fuji camera and lens led to an immediate improvement in image quality, if not always the shots I took. Significantly, the XE-2 was smaller and lighter, ideal for use for street and urban photography. I then added a 35mm lens, with an aperture option of f1.4, my current favourite lens, ideal for shooting in low light. I also got a 55-200mm telephoto zoom. This gives me the range of lens options to cover most of what I want to shoot.

Fujifilm XE-2 Camera

Fujifilm XE-2 (Image by Fujifilm).

The XE-2 is a rangefinder style camera (viewfinder at top left looking from the back) with an electronic viewfinder (EVF) that gives live preview based on current settings, recently updated to the latest Firmware (Camera operating system). Fujifilm do regular updates to their Firmware and this means that my camera and lense have had several improvements to things like autofocus speed and more.

Lenses

Taking Black and White pictures

I’ll not say too much on composition, what to shoot or why shoot this or that, as there is plenty of advice out there and lots of inspirational photographers. The main things I have found out that work for me when taking shots are:

  • Try to ‘see in BW’, think about texture, tone and shape, don’t be distracted by colours, unless you know they will work well for what you want to achieve in BW.
  • If you have a Fuji X-Series camera with EVF, you can set the camera to shoot BW JPEG (or RAW plus JPEG) and it will give you a BW live preview, useful for practising or previewing complex  scenes in BW.
  • Rain, mist, snow, hail, all of these can be good. Diffuse light, such as on a glorious cloudy summer’s day in Scotland gives good results too.
  • A good colour image won’t always make a good black and white – I often see people posting a ‘failed’ colour shot as BW and it usually doesn’t work in my opinion.

We both shoot in RAW, to allow custom processing, although my Fujifilm XE-2 and Lynn’s XT-10 both create very nice JPEGS in camera.

Processing the RAW file

The following is my current workflow. It isn’t extensive, probably not clever, but it works for me and I hope may help you to see something useful for you too.

Software

We use Adobe Creative Cloud and have a subscription for Photoshop (Editing Images), Bridge (Managing Images) and Lightroom (a bit of both, but not used), which currently costs about £9 per month. If you don’t have Photoshop, you can download a 30-day free trial.

We also use Google NIk Tools plugins, which work with Photoshop and Lightroom, in particular the Silver Efex Monochrome tools. The latter is highly recommended and is now free to download.

An example run through

This is just a quick example with the basic information that I’ve been asked about.

Here’s an unprocessed image, taken a couple of days ago when Edinburgh had some lovely haar (sea mist) for us to play around with.  It was shot with the Fujifilm XE-2 and the XF 55-200mm lens at f6.4, 110mm, 1/100th sec and ISO 640 (Exif snapshot info below).

Unprocessed image. Martyrs Monument, Edinburgh. Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Unprocessed image. Martyrs’ Monument, Edinburgh. Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Image Exif (Technical Details).
Image Exif (Technical Details). Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.

The Fujifilm RAW (.raf) file was opened in the Photoshop RAW editor for some basic editing. In this case, looking at the image histogram, the tonal range seemed good for what I wanted to achieve – you can do a wide range of editing at this stage prior to going into Photoshop. In this case I went to the Dehaze option to ADD a little haze, the opposite of what the tool is designed for, to give me a little more haar to play with.

Adobe Photoshop RAW Editor interface, showing Dehaze tool.
Adobe Photoshop RAW Editor interface, showing Dehaze tool, which can add or remove haze. Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.

Next, into Photoshop, shown here with the Google NIK Tools Interface. If you want to use the Silver Efex tools, simple click on the button on this interface. This will give you this next interface.

Google NIk Tools - Silver EFEX Interface with image. Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Google NIk Tools – Silver EFEX Interface with image. Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.

If you haven’t used Silver Efex before, I recommend you play around with the existing presets, try things out and try to learn what the various controls on the right hand side do. Some are quite subtle and, you’ve guessed it, some are not. there are some good tutorials out there, including on the Google Silver Efex web page.

At this point, I used a saved custom preset I’ve made based on one of the existing ones called (016) – Full Dynamic (Smooth).

I then did a final adjustment to the depth of the blacks and some of the mid-tones using a Levels Adjustment layer. here’s the end result.

I’d be interested in any feedback on whether this was useful to you or not via the comments below or by sending me an email.

Final Processed Image. Martyrs Monument, Edinburgh. Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Final Processed Image. Martyrs’ Monument, Edinburgh. Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.

Swan Rescue #SSPCA #Blackford #Pond #Cygnet #Edinburgh .@ScottishSPCA www.henni.photo

Post by Paul Henni

Another lunchtime stroll around the Blackford Pond and came across these women from the SSPCA rescuing a young male adult swan who hadn’t ‘flown the nest’ and, sadly, was being harassed by his parent to do so. This had left him in a poor state, so he was being rescued for re-location to the SSPCA Centre in Alloa for feeding up and future release.

Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.

#Blackford #Pond #Cormorant #Seabird #Edinburgh .@Edinburgh_CC www.henni.photo

Post by Paul Henni

A lunchtime stroll around the Blackford Pond and the unusual sight of a family of Cormorants, presumably sheltering from the harsh sea conditions. Updated today with a few more shots. They look like Pterodacyls, positively pre-historic critters.

Another Blackford Pond Cormorant. Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Another Blackford Pond Cormorant. Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Another Blackford Pond Cormorant. Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Another Blackford Pond Cormorant. Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Another Blackford Pond Cormorant. Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Another Blackford Pond Cormorant. Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.
Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni.

Frost, Mist And Sun. ,@_Exploratorius_ #Edinburgh #Mono #Photo knicksen.com

Cold, frosty ground, mist and warm sun, a great combination.

Frost, Mist And Sun.
Frost, Mist And Sun.

Slippery Underfoot. #Edinburgh #Monochrome #Photography #Cloud knicksen.com

Muddy, slippery and a choice of which one.

Fujifilm XE-2 with XF18-55mm lens.

Slippery Underfoot.
Slippery Underfoot.

‘Winter Decay.’ .@Fujifilm_UK .@fujiholics #Edinburgh #Monochrome knicksen.com

Still exploring the possibilities of my Fujifilm XE-2 and my shiny new 35mm Prime lens. Lots of wintery possibilities just now, so here’s one in full and cropped versions.

Winter Decay (Detail).
Winter Decay (Detail).
Winter Decay.
Winter Decay.

‘Narcissus.’ .@NarcissusEH1 #Edinburgh #Photography #Monochrome knicksen.com

Narcissus is a fantastic flower shop on Broughton Street in Edinburgh which always has an impressive display of, er, well, flowers, just as you’d expect. I took some shots as I was drawn to the nice light, so here you go…

Narcissus Two.
Narcissus Two.
Narcissus Two.
Narcissus Two.
Narcissus One.
Narcissus One.
Narcissus One.
Narcissus One.