Posts Tagged ‘White’

Now with More Minimalism: Brandless Brand Trademarks Bland White Boxes

28 Jul

[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Products & Packaging. ]

Viral Silicon Valley controversies like those revolving around Juicero (a device that squeezed out juice) and Lyft (which seems to be reinventing the bus) are often held us as examples of how innovators are out of touch, which leads us to Brandless, a brand that is apparently reinventing minimalist packaging — the kind of thing that companies like Target have been doing for ages.

To be fair, the Brandless boxes don’t look all that bad, and color-coding products make some sense. Plus, the idea of making everything the same price (three dollars) is fascinating if a bit difficult to scale. They are trying to take things a step further, too, by putting more information on the box (including the Brandless name) and less on the product, which could in theory be a nice way to visually declutter one’s home.

But of course, reality and regulations don’t always play nice with packaging design — for starters, the smooth look is interrupted by a black-printed net weight stamp toward the bottom and other essential labels of that sort. And, really strangely, a white trademark stands out from the colored portion of the product. Naturally, if one wants to order the flat-priced products, a shipping charge also interrupts the otherwise consistent pricing scheme.

None of this is meant to knock the conceptual underpinnings or commercial viability too much — entrepreneurs Tina Sharkey and Ido Leffler are clearly tapping into the West Coast demographic that has money and craves simplicity. But their claim to be making something “completely fresh and new” is a bit much — grocery and convenience store chains have been selling products in simplified and distinctive brand-free packages for a long time, with the same mission in mind (to reduce the “brand tax” people pay to get a name-branded version of something).

For now, the company is rolling out around 200 initial products. And, at least for the time being, they are all at the same price point. But one has to wonder: does that flat rate idea really make sense for a growing consumer brand? Surely some things are best bought in bulk to save money, or simply too expensive to sell for a few dollars. And consumers who want one-stop shopping may find their offerings a bit thin. In the struggle for minimalist simplicity, Brandless just may be making things harder on themselves than they have to.

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[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Products & Packaging. ]

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Auto White Balance: Yay or Nay?

20 Jul

So what exactly is white balance and why is it so important to digital photography?

The rudimentary answer is that light (the foundation of photography) has variable color temperatures at different times of the day. Your eyes are much better at processing color than a digital camera. Thus a white object will always appear white to you, despite the conditions. White balance is the process that the camera uses to remove color casts produced by these different color temperatures and helps your camera emulate whaty our eyes do naturally when dealing with white.

Auto White Balance: Yay or Nay?

Auto White Balance sometimes give very close results to what you see with your eyes.

Auto White Balance: Yay or Nay?

Daylight White Balance can be used to enhance the existing colors of your scene.

Auto White Balance (AWB)

The Auto White Balance (AWB) setting helps your camera “guess” the best option or choose the one closest to what your eyes might see. Many times AWB works better when you are outdoors dealing with natural lighting, than with more complex lighting situations.

The White in White Balance

To understand when AWB works well and is applicable, it is also important you understand the different White Balance presets your camera offers. They include; Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Tungsten, and Fluorescent. Added to these are Flash, Kelvin and Custom White Balance. Of note, the Custom White Balance Mode is used when you have especially challenging lighting conditions and need to lock in your whites based on those conditions. It is an under-used option that gives great results, so check your manual and experiment with it sometime.

Auto White Balance: Yay or Nay?

Delicate Arch, Utah – shot with the AWB setting.

Auto White Balance: Yay or Nay?

Delicate Arch, Utah – edited with a Custom White Balance setting.

The Auto White Balance setting assesses your scene and chooses the brightest part of your image as the white point, which unfortunately can vary from one shot to the next. Over the years though, significant improvements have been made to AWB systems and the results are getting better. Even with these developments, it is difficult for Auto White Balance to correct certain kinds of lighting (e.g. artificial or combination lighting setups). Another instance where it’s not recommended to use AWB is when doing panoramic shots, as you run the risk of varying light on your stitched image.

Auto White Balance: Yay or Nay?

Boats shot with a Custom WB. In a panoramic shot, if AWB is used, it can vary from shot to shot

The opposite problem exists as well – when AWB corrects color casts you do not want it to, such as when you are shooting a sunset or any scene where the color of the light is essential to the image. Some of the White Balance presets listed above, are set in-camera to provide some level of correction to typical lighting scenarios. Here you tell the camera the right setting for the occasion and take more control over your final image.

RAW Power

If you shoot in RAW, you are probably aware that RAW files retain all the color data captured by your camera. This retention allows you to change or choose a different White Balance setting while post-processing your RAW files. Some argue that even with this handy feature, AWB does not give you the best colors.

Auto White Balance: Yay or Nay?

Shot with Daylight WB (camera) vs processed Daylight WB (Photoshop)

Another perspective of setting White Balance in camera ensures that in the processing stage, your color rendition is consistent across all your shots (e.g. when shooting a wedding). Also of note, AWB can give you different results within the same scene. So you can go from one set of colors in a wide-angle shot to a different set of colors when you zoom in. Both of these are examples of losing the harmony when you are working on a series of images.

Taking Control

You may use AWB because it is easier to let the camera figure out the white balance based on the scene in front of you. However, as stated before, it is useful when you know how and when to use it. Setting white balance is not as daunting as it sounds though and when the conditions are not variable, you only need to set your white balance once (for those conditions).

Auto White Balance: Yay or Nay?

Using RAW and WB to take control of the appearance of your results.

So, if you are outdoors on a sunny day, set your white balance to Daylight or Sunny. If it is cloudy, choose the Cloudy white balance and similarly if you are in shade, choose Shade. These are very straightforward to remember based on the easy naming convention. When indoors, for incandescent lights, choose Tungsten (or Incandescent) and when shooting an area with fluorescent lights, choose Fluorescent. This is called setting your white balance to match your shooting conditions.

You can also set your white balance to modify your existing conditions. Once you start experimenting with white balance and understand how it affects your images, use it to get creative or make your image look either warmer or cooler.

Auto White Balance: Yay or Nay?

White Balance used to make the image look cooler.


Auto White Balance is a handy setting to have when you are unsure of what white balance would work for your scene. If you shoot in RAW, you can easily change your White Balance after the fact to find the best option.

If you want more control of your results, choose one of the camera white balance presets, already tailored for specific conditions, or create your own (custom white balance). Setting your white balance eliminates that extra post-processing step of fixing it from scene to scene and gives you more consistent results.

What is your go-to white balance and are you a fan of using AWB? Tell me in the comments below.

The post Auto White Balance: Yay or Nay? by Nisha Ramroop appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Corephotonics publishes white paper on dual-cameras and image fusion

16 Jul

Not too many smartphone users have heard of Corephotonics, but the Israeli technology company is one of the innovation drivers in the area of dual-cameras, with its zoom technology currently shipping in devices ranging from Xiaomi, to OPPO, to OnePlus and others. It’s also the company behind the 5x zoom camera with folding optics that was displayed at MWC by Oppo.

Now Corephotonics has published a white paper titled “Image Fusion – How to Best Utilize Dual Cameras for Enhanced Image Quality” that was authored by the company’s Director of Product Marketing, Roy Fridman, and Director of Algorithms, Oded Gigushinski.

The paper looks at the challenges that have to be overcome when adding a second camera in either Wide + Tele or Color + Monochrome setups, such as calibration issues, how to switch between cameras in a way that enhances user experience and how to optimize image quality using algorithms and software tools.

The document is written in an easy-to-understand way and makes for interesting reading for anyone who wants to dive a little deeper into the dual-cam and image fusion topics. If that describes you, you can find the white paper on the Corephotonics website.

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Siberia Space: Russian Town Tints Its White Winter World

26 Jun

[ By Steve in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

The tiny Siberian town of Ust-Yansk counters the pervasive whiteness of long & snowy winters by cladding its buildings in a rainbow of contrasting colors.

To say Ust-Yansk is isolated is an understatement: the nearest sizable town (Deputatsky, pop. 2,983) lies 302 miles (486 kilometers) to the southeast. Ust-Yansk itself boasts a population of just 317 (as of 2010, down from 341 in 2002). Both towns are located in Russia’s Sakha Republic, a sprawling Siberian territory slightly smaller than India but with just a thousandth of the latter’s population. The photo above shows Ust-Yansk from the distance of about 1 kilometer or about 6/10th of a mile.

Never a wealthy locality, Ust-Yansk fell on hard(er) times in the 1990s when the fall of communism left Russia’s backwater districts pretty much to their own devices. In Ust-Yansk’s case, those devices consisted mainly of mining, reindeer herding and fishing – activities requiring decent weather to function to their potential. Being that Ust-Yansk lies deep in northern Siberia, the weather is usually anything BUT decent. To quote the Wikipedia entry on Deputatsky, “Winters are prolonged and bitterly cold, with up to seven months of sub-zero high temperatures.” Nice. The unrestored buildings above, photographed by blogger BASOV-CHUKOTKA, look about as miserable as their inhabitants must have felt.

The East Is Red, Blue, Yellow, Green…

Snow falls early and often in Ust-Yansk, and when it falls it stays – like most tundra towns built on the permafrost, Ust-Yansk’s buildings rest on stilts to prevent heat from melting the frozen ground beneath. This type of construction can be expensive, however, but after the turn of the century rising oil prices flooded Russia’s coffers with bright, shiny rubles and towns like Ust-Yansk began to reap the benefits.

New construction and renovation transformed Ust-Yansk into a more livable town but what really stands out in these photographs taken in May of 2017 are the wealth of colors! From rich primary hues to more delicate pastel tints, Ust-Yansk brilliantly refutes the popular image of Siberia as a dreary place fit only for marginalized indigenous tribes and prisoners of the soviet Gulag. Well, it’s a start at least.

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Siberia Space Russian Town Tints Its White Winter World

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[ By Steve in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

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Posted in Creativity


Video: How to shoot white products on a white background

03 Jun

Shooting products on a white background is a common setup for anyone selling online. But how do you handle shooting a white product on a white background? The trick is to completely separate one’s foreground lighting from the background lighting. Pro photographer David Patino breaks down how to do it in this short, but useful PDN video.

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Swimming with giants: Black and white whale portraiture by Jem Cresswell

02 Jun

Creativity showcase site My Modern Met recently interviewed Jem Cresswell, an Australian photographer who has just completed a project he calls Giants. The project is a series of portraits of humpback whales presented in black and white and offers an intimate look into the personalities and emotions of these ‘gentle giants.’

In the interview, Cresswell describes his process (much of which you can see from the behind-the-scenes video above), as well as some interesting details concerning his interactions with the whales. In addition to only swimming with ‘certain whales,’ Cresswell says they never use scuba gear and he always enters the water ‘as calmly as possible, keeping my heart rate low and wait to see the behaviour.’

The interview also addresses the presence of ‘spindle cells’ in humpback whales, which are cells that are thought to be responsible for social organization and empathy. ‘It is obvious though, that humpback whales exhibit complex emotional behaviors, have intricate social networks and complex song structures,’ says Cresswell.

Head on over to My Modern Met or Cresswell’s website to view these stunning portraits for yourself – all of which, Cresswell says, were captured on a Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm F2.8L II and 16-35mm F4L in an Aquatech underwater housing.

Via: My Modern Met

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How to Use White Balance as a Creative Tool

02 Jun

White Balance is almost always used to match what colors our cameras detect to the colors we see with our eyes. Our brains are very good at managing how we see color. A sunny day looks warm and bright, but the actual color of the light is skewed heavily blue. Indoors, incandescent lights are notoriously warm (yellow/orange) and though our eyes may detect little of this warmth, you can bet our cameras will. White Balance is how we correct for that difference in light color, and how we can make images appear “natural” which is to say, how our brains detect it.

White Balance as a Creative Tool

Auto White Balance

It’s useful, certainly, but most of us leave it up to the camera to make the decision about White Balance. I know I do. My cameras are almost always set to Auto White Balance. Since I shoot in RAW, any errors that the camera makes can quickly be corrected in post-processing. At this point, I rarely even think about White Balance. But, perhaps I should…

White Balance can be more than a mindless setting of camera functions or a digital slider in Lightroom. Instead, it can be used as a creative tool. Slight changes in White Balance can change the tone and impact of your images. From dramatic color shifts to subtle changes in tonality, it’s time to elevate White Balance into the realm of creative options in photography.

The methods I’ll discuss here can be done either in camera or in post-processing, but it’s easier using the latter since you can see the impact of your choices real time. Although I use Adobe Lightroom, any program that allows you to adjust White Balance will work.

Dramatic Shifts in White Balance

Big shifts in White Balance can completely change the nature of your image. Shifts from cool to warm tones can take the image from looking as though it was made during the blue hour to post-dawn, or even make the weather appear to change.

A few years ago I was leading a wilderness/photo tour in the Noatak National Preserve in northwestern Alaska. One evening, an afternoon storm was clearing off the mountains and I went down to the river to make a few images. The light was pink, the rolling clouds and falling rain lit by the low sun.

Below are three versions of the same image with only the White Balance changed. You can see the huge difference made by the shift from warm to cool tones. The bluest image is set 3600K, the warmest to 14750K, and the one somewhere in between is 7000K. In the end, you’ll probably choose an image that is neither overly cool, nor overly warm, but how the White Balance setting changes the feel of the image is worth noting.

White Balance as a Creative Tool

White Balance set to 3600K.

White Balance as a Creative Tool


White Balance as a Creative Tool


Here is another example using autumn foliage, in this case, a Dwarf Birch in Alaska. The top image is 5050K, very close to what the Auto function on my camera selected, in the second I’ve warmed the image to 9000K. Although I prefer the cooler tones, I could see the second version appealing to editors looking for an autumn spread in a magazine or catalog.

White Balance as a Creative Tool

White Balance set to 5050K.

White Balance as a Creative Tool

White Balance set to 9000K.

Subtle Shifts in White Balance

White Balance as a Creative Tool

White Balance set to 4350K.

White Balance as a Creative Tool

White Balance set to 8700K.

Subtle shifts in White Balance can also be effective, even though differences between images may be less obvious. A change of a few hundred to a couple thousand Kelvin (the K measurement used in White Balance) can make a surprising difference to the impact of an image. In the top photo, I chose a cool setting (4350K) which brings out the cool winter tones. The second is much warmer, set to 8700k, which to me, (aside from being a bit too warm) feels like an evening storm is approaching. Neither is exactly “accurate” to the scene as I saw it, but neither are they necessarily unnatural. I’ll return to this image shortly.


Water strikes most people as a cool substance, and often it looks better when a White Balance with more blue-tone is selected. I made this image on a day with broken clouds, in autumn, in a small mountain range north of my home in Alaska. Tiny patches of the sun were penetrating the yellow, shrubby willows which surrounded this small creek. The yellow leaves and the partially overcast sky gave the scene a notably warm tone which you can see in the top image, set to 4600K (as selected by my camera’s Auto White Balance setting). I think it’s too warm, so just a subtle push to the blue range (4100K) was enough to retain the warm tone in the single yellow leaf but sufficient enough to cool the water.

White Balance as a Creative Tool

White Balance 4600K as chosen by the camera using AWB.

White Balance as a Creative Tool

White Balance adjusted to 4600K in post-processing makes the water feel much cooler.


Sunsets too can benefit from a little creative tweaking of the White Balance. From the bluff above a beach in Homer, Alaska, I made the image below. The cooler-toned toned image was shot using Auto White Balance (4600K), while the second I warmed up to 6000K in processing. I like both versions. So you can see that selecting a White Balance is very much a matter of taste, and how you want your image to come across to your audience. Which version do you prefer?

White Balance 4600K as shot using AWB.

White Balance adjusted to 6000K in post-processing.

Selective Changes to White Balance

The great part about digital post-processing is that you don’t have to choose one White Balance or another, you can mix and match. My choice of software, Adobe Lightroom, allows you to use the Adjustment Brush to grab certain parts of your frame, and independently adjust them from the rest of the image.

The photo below was made around the same time as the leaf in the stream I discussed earlier. In this case, a global (over the entire image) adjustment made the sprig of autumn colors look too cool and weird, even though the water was about right. So I cooled the whole image off to 3700K, then selected the sprig and bumped the Temperature setting to +35 using the Adjustment Brush.

As I was playing with the snowy mountain image I discussed early, I realized I liked neither the blue nor the overly warm version. I thought some combination might work well. So I set the overall tone slightly blue to 5100K and selected just the mountain, where the hint of sunlight was shedding some warmer light and gave that a boost to +23. The result works.

White Balance set to 5100K overall with warmth added to the top of the mountains using the Adjustment Brush.

Compare this version which is at 5000K with no extra adjustments on the mountains. See how subtle the difference is? But the version above feels little warmer in the sunlit areas.

White Balance in Black and White

We think of White Balance as strictly related to color, but in fact, it can play an important role in black and white as well. The White Balance used in your final image can impact cont st, and the way different shades of gray are presented in the final image.

To get the full impact, you need to use that White Balance slider in a big way. That means doing big pushes from warm to cool, not little subtle shifts of a few hundred or thousand Kelvin.


I was on the Alaska Ferry making images on a very gray and rainy winter day when we passed this small speck of an island with a few wind-blown spruce trees growing on it. I knew it was a black and white kind of scene, so I quickly removed the color using Lightroom. When I moved the White Balance to one side or the other it created a big change in the contrast and overall brightness of the photo. The top image is set well to the blue range (3700K) while the second is way over in the warm range (32,700K). You can see how the warm setting removed some contrast and brightened the photo.



A snowy landscape image on a beach near Haines, Alaska provided another chance to explore how White Balance impacts a black and white scene. The left image is set to 3700K, the right to 35,000K.



Lastly, is this simple composition of a dew-covered spider web. The top image has high contrast, is dark overall, with clean white dew drops and is set 2000K, (as cool as Lightroom will allow). The second is much grayer, with substantially less contrast, and is as high as Lightroom will allow at 50,000K. There is no question, I prefer the first version. But many images, such as the two examples above depend more on personal taste.




It is time to stop thinking of White Balance as strictly a way to accurately present color, and instead, embrace it as a creative tool. Whether it is for dramatic impact, subtle changes, selective adjustments, or even (counter-intuitively) using it in black and white photography – White Balance can play an important part in the outcome of your images. Consider it, use it. Embrace White Balance as more than just a setting.

The post How to Use White Balance as a Creative Tool by David Shaw appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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7 Secrets of Black and White Photography

20 Apr

We’ve all heard it … “to master black and white photography you must learning to see in black and white” – but just how do you do that?

It can sometimes seem like actually learning to see in black and white is a skill for only the chosen few. But trust us, it’s for you too!

Here are seven (not-so-secret-anymore) secrets that will help you train your brain and expand your eye for the art of black and white photography.

Read the rest of 7 Secrets of Black and White Photography (844 words)

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How to Enhance your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

09 Mar

This article will give you some tips on how you can enhance your black and white images by using infrared photography.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

Infrared photography for something different

Are you a fan of black and white photography? Like many, I love a good black and white image. The mood you can exude from the shadows and light always fascinates me.

When I was new to photography, I mostly avoided black and white landscapes. I used it mainly a handy way to hide the sporadically bizarre white balance my old Olympus EPL1 used to occasionally surprise me with.

Infrared photography (IR) also took a while to attract my attention. I wasn’t a huge fan of the typical false colour images, but quite liked the black and white IR photos, particularly the work of Simon Marsden. If you haven’t explored his portfolio of dark and atmospheric infrared film photography, you are missing something unique.

Anyway, after a while, I started doing more black and white landscape images, and eventually followed the urge to get into IR images purely for their unique monochrome potential.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

I went down the path of buying a modified camera off Ebay. You can buy anything from a point and shoot to a full frame DSLR, and everything in between. If you have an old body you can always get it converted, but it’s worth checking the cost against buying one that’s already been modified.

I picked up an Olympus EPM1 for around AUD $ 300 ($ 230 USD). The advantage for me was being able use the same lenses and batteries I already had for the EPL1.

Why buy a modified camera rather than use IR filters?

Filters are a great and relatively inexpensive way to get into IR photography, but they have their limitations.

The main attraction of a modified camera is that you are not limited to the long exposures needed for an IR filter. You can capture sharp images in any conditions, and can be more creative with your exposures (e.g. pick the perfect shutter speed for moving water). You can shoot handheld from any point of view without being limited by a tripod.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

It is also much quicker. When using filters, you need set your focus before attaching the filter which can become tiresome.

I used to take my IR camera with me for a run along the river. Without the need for a tripod, I could travel light and take quick photos whenever an interesting composition presented itself.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

What can infrared photography bring do for a landscape photographer?

Perhaps the most striking characteristics of infrared photography are the typical white vegetation, black water, and dark skies. You can create punchy, high contrast images. The middle of the day works best for these type of shots. Perfect for those landscape photographers that hate early mornings!

If you like capturing the complex patterns in clouds, you’ll find that the black skies really allow the clouds to stand out.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

IR also gives you clarity. Any haze visible to the eye tends to disappear in infrared photography. So you can achieve a very crisp and contrasty look.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

The deciding factor for me was tone. I found the infrared monos gave me a wonderful palette of greys and blacks to work with, particularly for trees and vegetation. The balance between light and dark just seems easier to manage in infrared and really lets you produce some unique images.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography


So what processing should you use for infrared photography? The short answer is not much really. Experiment to find out what works for you.

Myself, I don’t normally use Lightroom or Photoshop, so my workflow may be a little different than yours. But the principles will be the same.

I import my raw images into Corel’s AfterShot Pro, which is a handy little raw file editor. Here I’ll straighten the image, adjust the exposure, and maybe increase the contrast if required. My infrared raw files come into AfterShot Pro displaying blue-grey hues, which is a good starting point for me. From here I export them as TIFFs into PaintShop Pro.

PaintShop Pro has a “Black and White Film” effect that lets you apply a colour filter to your image. Changing your filter between blue, red, and green gives a different result.

From here it is a matter of personal taste adjusting the light and dark of your image, the white and black points to suite the image, and maybe applying curves as appropriate.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

What is the Secret Sauce?

Infrared photography is wonderfully clean and crisp. But what if you love that IR film look with a ghostly flare?
Don’t worry. PaintShop Pro has it in the bag. They have an “Infrared Film” effect that was probably created to make ordinary images look a bit infrared-ish.

But when you apply it to a proper infrared image as a starting point, you get a wonderful controlled flare effect. It doesn’t quite match the often spooky and surreal results Simon Marsden achieved with IR film, but it does get you a lot closer than anything else.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

The flare can be applied to give a sense of mystery, mood, and surrealness that is hard to replicate any other way.
Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

Are there any downsides to infrared photography?

Not really. The only big drawback you’ll find is that you cannot use your favourite filters. Standard neutral density and polarizers do not work in the IR spectrum. If you sky is very bright and your subject is dark, you’ll just have to blend a few different exposures. Shooting in RAW of course gives you more leeway, but my Olympus files are not as forgiving as my Nikon files when recovering blown highlights.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

The only other thing I notice is that some people get so enamoured by the white leaves and black sky effect that they forget to put their attention on the composition. Yes, everything looks cool in IR, but don’t take pictures of everything. Aim for strong compositions and uncluttered images. IR really shines with a minimalist approach.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

Many dismiss infrared photography as an oddity; a strange niche that is a bit too left of centre for them. Others just think it is too hard and expensive to get into.

But if you like creating black and white images that stand out from the crowd, I’d suggest you have a crack at it. You’ll find it a challenge but also quite rewarding.

Enhancing your Black and White images with Infrared Photography

The post How to Enhance your Black and White images with Infrared Photography by Matthew Larsen appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to Create Good Black and White Portraits

24 Feb

The most difficult question I often ask myself is, “Do I convert this image to black and white or leave it in color?” This question is particularly difficult with people, because black and white portraits look really good.

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My go to rule is that if the colors in the image do not match, are not complementary, or simply do not look good, then I convert my image to black and white.

Tips to Making Black and White Portraits

A lot of people prefer black and white images and because of that I always send to my models/clients one black and white image and one edited image in color. I basically force myself to convert all my images to black and white, and in some cases, I get surprised because the result looks really good.

Black and white is less forgiving

Flaws in monochrome images will automatically stand out than in color ones. This is because sometimes color distracts the viewer and it can give the impression that the image is perfect even if the composition, facial expression of the model, or lighting are not the best.

With black and white portraits, you will need to pay more attention to light, composition, contrast, and the whole scene in general.

Tips to Making Black and White Portraits

Lighting for black and white

Contrasty lighting is what makes a black and white image pop. If you look at the work of famous photographers like Ansel Adams, his images stand out because of the light contrast. Fine art photographer, Joel Tjintjelaar, explains very well separation and the grey scale, tonal contrast, separation and presence and depth. Black and white is all about presence and depth. Most of the time this can be created and enhanced using the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop.

It is important to study the work of others. For example, Peter Coulson is a photographer who takes stunning black and white portraits.

When taking portraits in natural light, always use a shallow depth of field to centre the attention on the eyes and avoid slow shutter speed as the image needs to be completely sharp.

Tips to Making Black and White Portraits

Taking images during the magic hour will give a very flattering result as the light will be very soft. In studio sessions, a large softbox or window light will give you very soft light. For more contrasty results, the best solution outdoors is to photograph during the middle of the day and in studio is to use a beauty dish.

The difference will mainly play in the shadows and it will depend on how dark do you want your shadows to be.

Tips to Making Black and White Portraits

Plan for black and white

Most of the time, the best solution is to have black and white in mind for the final image because you will automatically pay more attention to light and shapes around your model. You also need to tell your model that this is your intention because the pose and facial expression will be more important and emphasized.

Black and white portraits are all about facial expression and transmitting emotions. The eyes of the model should always be the centre of attention and facing the light source to create a little sparkle of light (called catch lights), this makes the difference. You can also create a second sparkle if you use a light reflector. You don’t necessarily need an assistant to hold the reflector, you can ask the model to hold it or you can hold it yourself with one hand.

Tips to Making Black and White Portraits

Studio portraits in black and white can be much more creative because you fully control the amount of light in the room. You can control the direction and intensity of that light towards your model. Try to get creative by only lighting one part of the face, by using objects or using a black background to isolate your subject.


Black and white work is not only desaturating an image, it is much more complex. The work flow I usually use is I start by editing my image in color and playing around with the contrast of colors. I adjust my exposure, the sharpness, do skin work and then I do my first dodge and burn. Afterward, I convert my image to black and white using the channel mixer and it is quite simple because the different filters will give you different results.

The most important part of post-processing is using dodge and burn to give life to your image. Brighting and darkening up key areas of the image is the most important step, take your time to do it well. The result will depend on you, so don’t hesitate to do it several times before you are completely satisfied. I recommend using a Wacom Tablet for full control. Finish your post-processing by creating a vignette to add another feel of dimension.


Black and white portraits look amazing when they are done properly. The result will depend on how good you can control and define the light around your subject. In other words, how defined is your contrast between the different tones.

Always think about black and white when the colors in the RAW image do not look good, when when your model has a very strong facial expression, and when you have good looking light whether it’s outdoors or indoors.

Please share your comments and black and white portraits in the section below.

Tips to Making Black and White Portraits

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