Black and White Digital Photography Tips

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What is Sepia?

Sepia: Colorful "Black and White"

Don't look at everything in black and white. Along with a black and white option, some digital cameras offer other effects. One of the most popular of these effects is called sepia tone, or sepia.

Sepia tone is similar to black and white in that it uses a simple color scheme to tell the visual story. In the case of sepia, however, that color is brown.

Originally, sepia prints were produced by adding a pigment to the chemical printing process. This pigment - made from the Sepia cuttlefish - produced longer-lasting photographic prints, but also tinted them brown. That's why, when we think of antique photos, we often think of sepia tone prints.

If your digital camera doesn't have a sepia menu option, that's okay. As with black and white, most good photo editing software also allows you to convert color pictures to sepia tone.

What type of printer do you need for black and white digital photos?

Printing Picture Perfect in Black and White

Just because you may be printing your digital photos in black and white, don't be fooled into thinking that just any printer will do. Whether they're in color or in black and white, quality prints require a quality printer.

You see, even though color isn't a concern with black-and-white prints, tone is. And so is detail. Cheap printers usually produce cheap results. If you want your black-and-white digital pictures to look great, print them on a quality photo printer.

How can you convert digital photos to black and white pictures?

Don't Re-Shoot, Retouch

Did you ever suspect a digital photo you shot in color would look better in black and white? Most photographers do from time to time.

Well, there's no need to go back out and shoot your subject again. With most digital photo editing software, you can get that black-and-white look easily.

In Adobe's popular Photoshop Elements (version 6), for example, you just open the photo file and select "Enhance" from the main menu. Then select "Convert to Black and White..." from the drop-down list. Elements displays the original (color) photo next to a black-and-white version, along with several adjustment options to fine-tune your photo.

Just make the changes you want (the on-screen image changes as you adjust the settings) and then click on "OK." Elements then displays your digital photo in black and white. The entire process takes just seconds.

Even better, Elements' "Undo," "Step Back" and "Revert" features let you change your mind at any step in the process - so long as you haven't saved over the original file.

Why is it easier to shoot black and white shots on a digital camera?

Change Color With a Click

Color sometimes distracts viewers from the subject of a photograph. That's one reason black and white remains popular with artists. And why you should consider adding black and white to your digital photography toolkit.

Plus, most digital cameras have made shooting black and white pictures easy. "Black-and-white mode" is a common feature on point-and-shoot cameras. Just make a quick menu selection, and - voila! - your digital camera's sensor translates the scene into black and white. If you like what you see, just shoot, and the camera will record the scene as a black and white image.

Or shoot the same scene in color mode and in black-and-white mode... then compare the two.

If your camera doesn't offer the option of shooting in black and white, you can still get the same effect. Most good photo editing software packages let you convert a digital color picture into a black-and-white photo. So even if you think a shot would look good in black and white - but you can only capture it in color - you can still get the look you want.

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Guru Spotlight
Patricia Walters-Fischer