The aim of this exercise is to demonstrate the increased flexibility provided by black and white in interpreting the tonal range of an image; it can allow far more aggressive changes to brightness and contrast than would look reasonable in colour.

I selected two images for this exercise – one which would best suit a strong increase in contrast, another which would suit a low key treatment.  I’ve been looking through the book “Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs” so ended up selecting a landscape for the second image.

Increased Contrast

ISO 100, f/4, 1/30s

“Bullet” – Original – ISO 100, f/4, 1/30s

I increased the contrast, adjusted exposure and increased black levels.  These are the results in black and white and colour.

Contrast Adjusted - Black and White

“Bullet” – Contrast Adjusted – Black and White

Contrast Adjusted - Colour

“Bullet” – Contrast Adjusted – Colour

I had to manually adjust the white balance of the colour image, as it ended up far too blue, but I actually think both versions look reasonable and I slightly prefer the colour version of the two.

Low Key

Original - ISO 100, f8, 1/800s

“Andorra” – Original – ISO 100, f8, 1/800s

I reduced the exposure in this image, then added a bit of fill light to bring out some of the detail in the shadow.  In black and white it looks almost like a night shot – in colour I think it doesn’t look much more than underexposed.  The black and white version I feel does change the nature of the image – effectively and significantly, while that kind of change isn’t achieved with the colour version.

Low Key - Black and White

“Andorra” – Low Key – Black and White

"Andorra" - Low Key - Colour

“Andorra” – Low Key – Colour