Why Not Shoot In Black and White?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010




I just have a random quick tip for those of you with digital SLR cameras, pro or not.

See, since last October, I switched to full RAW shooting, all the time. I was a JPEG shooter for years, loved it, was sold on it... but the RAW switch was easier than I thought it would be, and I am deeply satisfied with the end results.


I lost two things when I switched:
1.) I lost the easy shooting/instant gratification/simple viewing/sharing capacity of shooting JPEGS when shooting my own personal photos.
2.) I lost the incredibly gorgeous (in my opinion) black and white shooting mode in-camera.

Let me address #2 first.... See, if you guys with the big fancy cameras didn't know, your camera likely has an option in its vast menu to shoot in Monochrome, or in other words, black and white. This is a really cool option for you if you know you'll only need your photos to be black and white-- because the camera won't record any color at all. If you know you'll want both color and black and white of a shot, you have to shoot in the regular mode, then convert to black and white in a photo editing program later.

But sometimes....sometimes you know you just wanna shoot black and white. And while you COULD shoot regular color, then convert later, WHY?? I just switch my camera to black and white right then and there... and the conversion the camera does REALLY makes me happy. Often, I just go into Photoshop later to add a bit of contrast or do a curves layer, but that's IT. No long-winded tweaking. The in-camera black and white is just that good.

However..... the funniest thing happened when I started shooting RAW. I could still shoot that monochrome mode and see the black and white photo in my camera's LCD... but when I brought the file into my computer, opened it in Lightroom, the black and white was gone. It was all color again. Why? Because a RAW file is just that---- RAW. No presets applied, no "in camera conversions", nothing. So when I brought the RAW file to  Lightroom to work on, it was stripped of the black and white frou frou my camera layered on top of the photo to display it in the LCD. It was purely RAW. So.... I lost that black and white loveliness. I'd have to create a conversion in Lightroom or Photoshop. The extra, tedious step was back.


So. My (long winded) tip for the day is two-fold:
1. Try out your in-camera black and white. It can be so much fun to shoot in monochromatic and see the world that way. Try it out. Look for textures or moods that might be really enhanced with black and white. Try serious/pensive/truth-telling portraits of your kids or try taking images of small details in your home... Try it out. You might fall in love with the way your camera does black and white as much as I do.


2. If you shoot RAW, switch back to JPEG first... just for the blacks and whites. just for fun.

Which brings me to that other dilemma I faced when shooting RAW--- the fact that I lost the simplicity of having JPEGS ready to show/share/enjoy when just shooting my own life. It seemed people were either all-RAW or all-JPEG, so I stuck stubbornly to my RAW switch... and in the meantime, my own personal photos got more and more backed up because they were stuck in this RAW form that needed to be opened in Lightroom/pre-edited/converted to JPG/exported to PS/final edited..... EXHAUSTING. So of course, they never got done. 

But ya know what? WHY be all or nothing?? So...a couple of months ago, I stopped. STOPPED shooting RAW when I knew the photos were just going to be casual shots of my life. I now switch freely back and forth between JPEG and RAW, and I LOVE it. I get to have my personal photos back... within reach, no extra steps needed. So. If you are a RAW purist.... why not try switching to JPEG, just one time, just to feel the freedom? Not with the pro pics you have to have super precise... but just for the playtime with your kids, or the photos of your latest crafty project? Why not?


That was rambling. 


And the photos above are the three spunky kiddos of my old pal Sarah from college days. I got to spend two lovely days with her when I was in Oregon in May. Turns out her town of Vancouver, WA is literally 10 minutes from Portland, OR. Who knew?? So we got to hang out, and her kids got to ham it up for me. Perfect.


  1. How surprised and pleased I was to see my sweet little faces on your blog. Thank you for capturing them. The black and white really is perfect-considering they were wearing pjs/scrubby clothes and/or galoshes.
    Loved having you here. You are an extremely genuine friend. Thanks for the coat and pictures. We treasure them (the pictures, not the coat). Also, the suckers were gone w/in minutes. I love your little touches.
    I kept telling you I lived 10 mins. from Portland. You are too funny.
    Love you lady and my deepest thank yous

  2. Beautiful! I had NO CLUE my camera had a black and white setting. I'll have to try it, b/c iphoto's black and white conversions don't thrill me, and that's the only program I have. It's been a long time since I got my camera out, so this will be a fun project. I'm excited! As for RAW, I don't know what that is, but it sounds WAY too complicated for me!

    Love ya!

  3. I go back and forth between JPEG and RAW all the time. ;)

  4. Lovely rambling. Once I "went RAW" (about 7 or 8 months ago), I have not really gone back. I would love to shoot JPG for my casual family shots, but I'm terrified I'll forget to switch back for the important stuff. Of course, really, what am I afraid of? Even if it's in JPG, I should still be exposing properly and blah blah blah. Okay, don't tell anyone but I think RAW has become a bit of a crutch for me. Shhhh! It's a secret!

    And so ends my own rambling....

  5. Who knew that Vancouver, WA was about 10 minutes from Portland, OR? Um, I could have probably ballparked it- I never served on that side of the state, but I knew around where Vancouver was and where Portland was... I probably could have told you, just as your friend apparently did on numerous occasions ;)

    I love the beauty of the black and whites! There's an indefinable class to B&W photos that touches a part of my artistic soul...

  6. This is so interesting to read, since I'm just starting to dabble in photography. Love these shots!


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