BW BC Week 5: Feb 24-28

February 23rd, 2014
Welcome to the fifth and final week of ourBlack and White Book Club study of Michael Freeman's The Complete Guide to Black and White Digital Photography (or the Black and White Photography Field Guide. Besure to read the overviewand week 1, week 2,week 3, and week 4 posts if you are just joining in. Everyone is welcome to participate, even without a copy of either book, but if you do have the book, you will have more to draw on during the month.

Week 5, Feb. 24-28, will focus onPutting it All Together – a final week to go back to your favorite or most challenging ideas or styles of black and white photography. You can also explore topics not covered in the weeks above, such as Grain or High ISO photographs or HDR, Tone Mapping, and Adding Tints.We will be covering pgs. 62-67,166-187/60-65, 166-185 (optional processing pages: 122-137/120-137. (For the curious, we are not covering section four, as Printing & Display is not really applicable to the actual process of black and white photography.)

Continuing with Creative Choices in Black and White Photography

This week we will finish the second half of the Creative Choices in Black and White chapter (pgs. 166-187) and add in the Film Qualities chapter from section one (pgs. 62-67). There are many different black and white techniques covered in these pages, and you are welcome to explore any or all of them or spend the week going back to ideas from earlier in the book.

The film qualities section provides an interesting historical overview of the physical reasons behind 'grain' in film photographs. In our digital-oriented world, we tend to conflate film grain with the 'noise' of higher ISO digital photographs, even though the process and results are quite different. These chapters demonstrate some interesting ways of using 'grain-like' effects to add a certain look to your digital image. Consider trying some grain effects or film emulators with your photographs this week.

Freeman includes a longer section on the Digital Zone System as a way of thinking about black and white photography and processing. I will admit to finding these sections a bit tedious and confusing, particularly since I am not sure how to translate my own image into blocky zones of tones, so then how useful is the system itself? I leave that for the rest of you to debate, if you wish.

The chapters on HDR in black and white provide an overview of HDR processing (using a series of bracket shots or even tonemapping an individual photograph). Several different methods and programs are discussed, but in the end, "Tonemapping calls for experiment" (pg. 180).

The final chapters are about the process of adding tints or mimicking other older styles of photography. Monochrome does not have to strictly mean black and white photography, and these chapters explore toning and split-toning effects, such as sepia or cyanotype. Try incorporating some of these effects in your photography this week. (For Ace members, PicMonkey has a variety of such effects available.)

Delving in to "Digital Monochrome" chapters

This week's optional section on digital processing considers issues related to skin tones and handling opposite or adjacent hues (pages 122-137/120-139).

For the skin tones section, Freeman does an interesting comparison of how a small section of the skin changes through each of the processing steps. (In Photoshop, if you click on the 'info' tab above where the histogram is displayed, it gives you the option to then make a selection and receive the RGB and HSB readings that Freeman keeps referencing.) Particularly interesting in this section is how our eyes 'interpret' color from black and white and how slight changes in brightness can be read by our eyes as 'tan.'

Freeman provides several examples of the steps along the way toward processing a complex black and white image, particularly one where you want to treat objects with similar hues differently. Consider perhaps taking screen shots of your own processing steps along the way to share with the group this week.

Please consider tagging any photographs related to or inspired by the book club with the tag bw-bookclub and/or adding your photographs and thoughts about them to this post for discussion. Please also consider joining in the book club conversation with photographers outside of 365 by posting comments or images on the book club blog posts at and/or by joining the Photography Book Club Group on Flickr.

If you are commenting on an individual's photograph, please consider clicking on it and then commenting on it directly. If you want to share a comment, thought, or picture with the whole group, then include it on the discussion thread itself.

Parting thought for the week: as we reach the end of our month of black and white, how do you feel that the experience has helped you or changed your photography? What do you know or understand now that perhaps you did not at the beginning?
February 23rd, 2014
I feel that I have improved with black and white photography this month. I have learned more about tones and about looking for distracting elements in the background. I have learned more about how to bring out contrasts. However, I feel that I still have lots to learn about black and white photography. At times, I feel that I am struggling with BW.
February 23rd, 2014
Katie, thank you for writing a summary each week. I enjoyed this project as I am learning to see things in B&W.
February 23rd, 2014
Thanks, Katie -- this has been such a useful book club! Your summaries have made it possible to continue to participate even when time has been tight. I just ordered the macro book through your site -- $12.00 on kindle so seemed worth having, though I'm not sure how much time I'll have to read and think about it -- but looks like a good reference book to have on hand. Your recommendations have always been right on target!
February 23rd, 2014
I have two answers to your question, Katie. The long, personal one first - @daisymiller @archaeofrog I agree with Daisy completely, all the more so since I'm behind this week! However, I did a "Silver September" with another, smaller group last year, without a book to structure it. Even so, by the end of the month I felt I was starting to catch on to the "how" if not the "why," which still eludes me, but without the encouragement of a group I let the effort to work with B&W slide.
I feel a lot more confident with the "how" after this month, working directly with the image at least part of the time instead of relying on Topaz Restyle filters to process the image as I did in September. I'm going to try to prepare an image for "Black and White Wednesday" from here on out (I'm so good at following through with resolutions!) and I'm hoping there will be "black and white book clubs" at intervals - it would do me tons of good to participate again! And I felt like I'm able to "get up to speed" fairly quickly after a hiatus and then lean more about technique and suitable images with the added "pass" through the processing.
February 23rd, 2014
@archaeofrog Short answer - I don't feel that it's changed my photography - partly because the weather has been so awful I've dipped into the archives quite a bit! However, it's made me much more aware that I don't know enough about processing to look at a color image and say, "That would work in B&W." I've found it helps to "greyscale" typical images from a shoot and see if THAT looks promising, undo the greyscaling, and work with the ones that look interesting.
I just hope I follow through!
February 24th, 2014
Thanks for the tag Katie. I've always loved B&W. I found them fascinating and B&W always gets the best of every shots (especially streets). It exudes emotions and tells a lot of story without the distraction of so many colors. With this challenge, I learned to enjoy the different processing especially in the high and low contrast and over and under exposure. Great challenge indeed. Congrats to all who are about to finish this. Can't wait to see all of your screenshots for the month. x
February 24th, 2014
Thank you for writing all this, Katie!
It was very useful and helped me explore B&W more.
Will you do a thread at the end of this week where everyone can post a calendar screenshot?
February 25th, 2014
Thanks for all your explanations and guidance, Katie. I've found it really useful - I think I'm beginning to see more where black and white works better than colour and have enjoyed playing with different levels of contrast. I'm a long way from my perfect B&W shot but this has given me a good foundation to continue working from.
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