Whenever we talk about HDR we come to those images full of color, but have you tried HDR photographs in black and white? The results will surprise you. Here I leave a series of tips to get the best results and three different ways to make them.
How to make HDR photographs in black and white
We all know that it is an HDR photograph, but in case you do not have it very clear yet, I leave you a couple of articles where I explained a few months ago how high Dynamic Range photographs are taken and how they are processed in color.
Before we start we will give a series of tips that you will have to put into practice when taking photographs to compose, both normal HDR and black and white. These tips will allow us to compose the HDR with the highest possible quality.
“When we talk about HDR photography in black and white we include monochromatic photographs with” tacked “, for example to Sepia, etc.”
Obviously this is always important, but in black and white shots, it will be essential. As there are no colors, our viewer will stop to analyze more clearly the sharpness, the nuances of grays, the lighting, the contrast. It is often said that in black and white photography (byn) the soul of our photo is deepened since chromatic ornamentation is dispensed with. For all this I advise you to follow these tips to maximize the quality of our monochromatic HDR since it is much more demanding.
The capture process was already explained in the previous articles, so we are going to focus now on the methods of generation of Monochromatic HDR or HDR in black and white.
Method 1: Conversion to black and white of a color HDR
This is the simplest method, but also the one that gives us the least interesting results. To do this we will convert our color HDR photo to black and white using any of the existing methods for them. Methods there are as many as photographers, soon I will write an article explaining the best but I think that this is not the time since we would make an article too extensive and we would leave the main object of this article.
“We started with a color HDR and converted it to black and white”
Even so, I will recommend a very interesting and fast conversion that is done with Photoshop using a Gradient Map adjustment layer with the black color of First Color and the White of Second.
In the options, check the check box for Screening .
And if the result matches the shadows or lights, by clicking on the gradient we can adjust the center point from right to left to adapt the midtones.
Although this method is fast and comfortable, the results are never spectacular because we work with the image outside the HDR environment . What I want to say is that we already have the 16-bit Tiff converted photograph and we do not work with the 32 Bits that a HDR photo has in total, missing the main feature of this type of photography.
Method 2: Convert black and white directly to the HDR generation program
In turn, this method consists of two possible options:
The first, faster and simpler, if we use for example Photomatix to generate the HDR file, we can use some of the “Presets” to convert the photo to HDR in black and white.
“We have used Photomatix to convert the photo to HDR and we have used a preset monochromatic Preset”
The second and more interesting, would be based on making adjustments “by hand” configuring all the parameters to our liking and moving the saturation controls to the minimum.
Now we can use the Exposure Fusion method , which gives more realistic results.
“With the Exposure Fusion method we obtain images closer to reality”
Or we can use the Tone Mapping method , with which we will get the typical HDR images with more details, more intense … well I do not like to say it like this: “More HDR …”
“The Tone Mapping method is the typical method that is used in HDR photography and that generates those results so dear to many and hated by so many others”
With this method we will have a more precise control of the HDR , the tones and the contrast. We can increase the detail and achieve a “force” effect that goes very well with whites and blacks.
“Generated the HDR we can always rearrange the lights and shadows with Photoshop to give, within this” unreal world “, a little sense to the lighting of our photo”
The result will be an HDR in black and white even more powerful than with the previous method, in addition to being able to spin very fine with all lighting levels.
Method 3: Convert the frames to black and white previously send them to the HDR program
For this I usually use Lightroom and I apply a “synchronized” conversion to black and white to all the captures that are going to be part of the HDR.
“With Lightroom I do a conversion to black and white of one of the frames and then I synchronize the settings converting all applying the same parameters”
The result is very interesting, since it generates a totally different HDR than expected . Also consider the photo as color , with what we can get not only HDR in black and white, but a series of interesting “tacks” using the Temperature and Saturation controls .
“We have given a cold (blue) tone reducing the White Balance slider to -2.3”
In my opinion, this is the method with which I get more interesting results , especially with more strength, and the option of taking cut tones with different intensities also gives this method a plus with respect to the other two.
“With this method I get some very interesting” turns “that enrich even more the black and white tone”
Finally I can take the photo to Photoshop and with a few layers of curves or levels I can redistribute the lighting generating, as we did before, a more real image.
With this method the results are spectacular and it is my favorite for everything explained above.
“The final result is much more intense than if I had made a single photograph and converted it to black and white”
These are the working methods that exist to work with black and white HDR photography. But we must also take into account these seven tips in capturing the frames that make up our HDR, either in color and especially for black and white, because we will get better results. Having a raw material will not ensure us a better final result, but it helps a lot.
1. Use a good tripod
One of the most common problems that HDR photographs generate us is that if we shoot at pulse, however good you are, we will always suffer small imbalances of the position that will generate haloes in the HDR . These movements will cause the result to be unclear images with unwanted halos. In black and white HDR photographs it will seem even more that the photo is blurred and possibly lacking in sharpness, so the use of the tripod is essential.
2. Work with a remote trigger
Still shooting with the tripod is highly recommended to use a remote shutter since the less we touch the camera better . There are remote triggers that have functions for HDR , apart from intervalometer . These give us more and better options, above all if we dispense with wiring and other elements.
3. Try using an ND filter of 128 or even more
This will allow us to use long exposure times, which will help us reduce the number of “ghosts” in the shots. As I explained in other articles, this phantom effect is produced by elements that move in our frame, such as people walking, cars or other elements. With a long exposure these, little by little will vanish in our shots, especially when we generate the HDR image in black and white.
4. Work with the least possible noise
The digital processing of a HDR image in black and white is very hard and will possibly increase the noise in conflicting areas, so it is advisable to lower the ISO sensitivity .
5. Shoot Hyperfocal
In order to have the greatest depth of field. So we can get an image with the highest dynamic range and the greatest possible focus so our photos will be spectacular. For this I recommend using lenses like the Irix lenses because they carry the hyperfocal marks recorded in the focus ring , gaining speed in the preparation of the shots and an agility that is always necessary , especially in the taking of photos for HDR. If you want to know in depth the operation of the brands that are in the barrel of the Irix objectives , you can not miss this article.
6. Make as many shots as possible with the minimum separation between possible exposure speeds
With this we will achieve smoother transitions between the different lighting areas. So that you do not have problems, I recommend you use high capacity cards and especially high speed recording so as not to collapse the buffer of our cameras and have problems with the flow of data.
For this we must measure in the highest lights and in the deepest shadows. The ideal would be to use a photometer with incident light to have greater precision. In the absence of a photometer, we can measure with the exposure meter of our camera in point mode. In this way, even if we measure in a reflected manner, we will obtain values with sufficient precision to establish the minimum and maximum limits of our exposures. If you want to know what are the practical applications of a handheld photometer with real examples you can not miss this article.
Well done HDR photography brings great satisfaction to the photographer regardless of their level. With HDR in black and white we multiply the creative possibilities of this photographic technique and we will manage not to leave our audience indifferent.