BetterPhoto Q&A
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Photography Question 
Emily Sopha
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/23/2005

Shoot in Color or in B&W?

I usually try to take all photos in color and then convert to B&W/grayscale in PhotoShop later (so I always have the option of a color image). For those more experienced photographers out there ... would you suggest shooting in black-and-white for photos that I know I only want in B&W? How much of a difference is there in the quality of the print? Thanks!

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9/2/2005 8:06:13 PM

Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/13/2004
  Personally, I would shoot in color and convert to black and white later. Sometimes I have had the camera in black and white and forgot to turn it back for some nice colorful images. I definitely would do color and then make it a point to see what it looks like in black and white before you keep it only in color. Hope this helps!

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9/2/2005 10:22:40 PM

Louis Kurland   It is better to shoot in color. First it give you more options re color vs BW. Secondly, the camera processes the image one way to produce BW. If you convert a color image to BW in photoshop, for instance, there are many methods to do so, and you can produce the type of image that you want.


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9/6/2005 4:41:58 AM

Philip Pankov
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/30/2004
If you shoot film, itís better to shoot proper black and white, because black and white film has higher resolution and lower grain than comparable ISO color film. I shoot medium format black and white film and I get virtually grain-free 20x24 prints from 6x6 negs.


Philip Pankov
Pictures of Ireland - Fine Art Black & White Photography of Ireland
Fine Art Black & White Photography

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9/6/2005 6:27:17 AM

Kerry L. Walker   I agree with all three posters. If you are shooting digital, just shoot it in color and convert to B&W. If you are shooting film, shoot with B&W film. You can get good results converting color film to B&W but not nearly as good as you can get shooting with B&W film. In addition to what Philip said, you will get a greater tonal range from B&W film.

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9/6/2005 6:37:40 AM

Tracy L. Hurst   Color film is made by attaching dyes to the silver bromide crystaline structure. This changes the film's characteristics on a microscopic level. If I know I want black and white output, I use black and white film from the start.

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9/6/2005 7:08:32 AM

Louis Kurland   Film????

What is that???? LOL

I shoot only digital, and so my reply only refers to digital.

All of the replies are right on. Hope they help, Emily


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9/6/2005 8:12:29 AM

Emily Sopha
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/23/2005
  Thanks everyone for the tips. Sounds like color is the best choice when shooting with a digital camera. I thought in an earlier post I mentioned that I'm using the Nikon D70 (digital) for most things ... realized you can't select a B&W option anyway (but still wanted to know what the professional opinions were out there). When using film ... which seems very seldom these days ... I use true B&W film.

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9/6/2005 9:48:53 AM

doug Nelson   Since you have Photoshop, there are better ways of converting to BW than just Image/Mode/Grayscale. You can convert the image to Lab Color, go to Window, show channels, keeping the Lightness Channel, and throwing out the other, then converting to Grayscale.

You can also go to Window, show Channels and pick the Red, Blue or Green that looks best to you and convert just that channel to Grayscale.

Finally, check out Photoshop books for the Channel Mixer, which lets you adjust each of the R, G and B channels and vary their influence.

Even the Lab Color method is better than a straight to Grayscale conversion. A book on Photoshop Retouch by Kathryn Eismann explains these methods clearly.

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9/7/2005 9:51:34 AM

Amy Anderson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/18/2004
  Glad to see Doug pointed out that using the grayscale option isn't your best bet. Go to Layer then to New Adjustment Layer; use the Channel Mixer: move your sliders around, then click the Monochrome box. You'll see much better results than just changing to grayscale!

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9/7/2005 5:52:02 PM

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