It’s not the picture, it’s what you do with it
In the post below, Billy Hollis complained that he’s never really done well shooting in black and white. Of course, I haven’t either, mainly because I don’t shoot in black and white. Instead I shoot in raw, and depend on post-processing to make things look the way I want them to look. For instance, here is a plain old photograph, exported to JPG as shot.
It’s a pretty meh picture. The colors are bland, and frankly, it’s over-exposed by about 1/3 stop. Here is where using a camera that shoots in RAW becomes important. In my case, I’m shooting with a Panasonic Lumix FZ-200 superzoom. Not a pro-grade DSLR, just a regular consumer superzoom with a tiny 1/2.3" sensor (about 6mm x 8mm in size). That’s pretty close to a cell phone camera sensor. But, because it shoots in RAW, I can fiddle with stuff. RAW is a non-compressed photo format that allows you to do non-destructive editing, which means if you fiddle with something and it goes totally wrong, you can always go back to the original shot and try again. You get really fine control over just about everything you can imagine, without affecting the digital negative. In my case, I do the image processing in Adobe Lightroom. You can’t do that sort of image processing when you shoot straight to JPG. Shooting is RAW, therefore, is massively useful, and allows you to do stuff like this to make the colors pop more:
Of course, that means that you get the full range of black and white darkroom options as well. In the picture below, I’ve popped the contrast and clarity, to try and capture the look of 1950s black and white film.
Here, I’ve kept the high contrast, and added graininess, as well as vignetting the edges. 1930′s and 1940′s black and white.
Now, I’ve reversed the contrast to reduce it a lot, removed the grain, and softened the clarity all the way down. This gives it a flat texture and a soft dreamy feel, eliminating fine details.
So, the key takeaway is that pretty lousy shots can be massively improved simply by shooting in RAW format, and spending a little time in post-processing in Lightroom to get the effect you want. Of course, you can take that a bit too far…
There is, after all, such a thing as too much processing.