A DAY OUT WITH MONO
Set yourself the challenge of shooting in B&W and see how it can transform your photography
1 Always use a tripod
For the best mono images, set your camera to shoot RAW. This means you’ll actually be capturing a colour file and while at first this may seem counter-intuitive, you can create a better black & white conversion when you have the full colour information of a RAW to work from. RAW gives you more control over tones and contrast, lets you rescue lost highlight and shadow detail and doesn’t suffer image compression, so your shots don’t ditch any data when they are saved and maintain maximum quality.
To help you visualise your final shots and see how they might look, set your camera’s custom Picture Controls to Monochrome in the shooting menu. This means the image displayed on the back of your camera will be in black & white, but the RAW file recorded to your memory card will still be a full colour file. To save the mono version you view, set your camera to shoot RAW + JPEG. The RAW file is your master copy to edit from, with the JPEG acting as a sketch to show how the final image might look.
Having set up your file format, you need to set the exposure. For most mono shots, it’s best to use Aperture priority. This gives you control over the depth-of-field and the light sensitivity of the camera, but the shutter speed will be set automatically to produce a balanced exposure. The depth-of-field is governed by the selected f/ number. A low f/number, like f/4, means the lens has a wide aperture which produces a shallow depth of field, so the space behind and in front of your focal point falls off into a soft blur. Use this when shooting portraits or street scenes to smooth out background clutter.
A high f/number, like f/16, means the aperture is narrow and a larger depth-of-field is created, which is ideal for landscapes and architecture where you want to have sharpness throughout the image. When shooting with a narrow aperture, less light is able pass through the lens and your camera will be using a slower shutter speed which puts you at risk of camera shake, so it’s advisable to use a tripod to stabilise it.
With your chosen aperture selected you need to also set the ISO, which controls the sensitivity of the camera. Under most circumstances you want to keep your ISO setting low to prevent Noise from appearing in your shots, or the image quality will suffer. You can always add grain later on when editing your shots if that’s the look you’re after.
A tripod keeps your camera steady, which is essential during long exposures.