[Play Raw] playing with B&W

I really lack the practice and drive to shoot b&w, maybe because I have a mental blockade to see things b&w. Maybe because I live in an over saturated land, don’t know.
One of these days, I read somewhere that b&w fits well to street photography because you have so many disparate colors that tend to distract you from the real motif. It made sense to me.
Last weekend I went for a street shooting session on a very degraded, yet vibrant place in the city: noisy streets full of cheap commerce, drug traffickers, prostitution, and a central railway station distributing people all over the places.
This image doesn’t capture all that atmosphere, but it’s the first one where b&w seems to impose to myself.
Long story short, I would like to see how others deal with b&w, since I’m not confident with my workflow - although I really liked the result from this image.

_MG_4993.CR2 (12.5 MB)
_MG_4993.CR2.xmp (5.5 KB)

Creative Commons License
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


@gadolf: Can’t find the download link for the raw fille.

Hummm… forgot that, I’m sorry.
And the thing is I just left home to work, and only at night I will be able to upload it.
Should I delete the post?

No, just upload later :slight_smile: .

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_MG_4993.CR2.xmp (10.6 KB)

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Nice image @gadolf. Personally, I found two issues with your high contrast processing. 1. The man loading plastic packs and the plastic packs were too bright and distracting and 2. the bright arm of the almost invisible woman. I have tried to mitigate those issues and tried to bring the focus on the man with Nike back-pack. Happy to try for the first time a BW conversion with darktable.
_MG_4993.CR2.xmp (17.6 KB)

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I also found it difficult to get the right amount of light to the right place. So, I took some freedom with this nice shot.

_MG_4993.CR2.xmp (8.7 KB)


Sirs, very interesting interpretations.

@yteaot I liked your crop very much, as well as your edit, although it goes in the opposite direction as mine.

@shreedhar I agree with the points you’ve raised. Now, I found an issue with your xmp: it gives an error regarding the lut module. I think it expects a Windows path (backslashes) and I’m on Linux (slashes):

EDIT: I opened an issue: https://github.com/darktable-org/darktable/issues/2681

@Thomas_Do I also liked your edit, very clear, still contrasty but more balanced. And I also like to see the whole scene.

Second try: @yteaot 's crop, @shreedhar light balance and a lazy retouch

_MG_4993_03.CR2.xmp (33.9 KB)

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Interesting crop. Anytime you have two (or even numbers) you’re inviting a comparison. What are you saying about these two men?

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middle age, hopeless, harsh man, randomly passing by a young, energetic guy, full of dreams.


The man in front earned his Nike. “Now it’s your turn, son.”, he thinks as he passes by. :heavy_check_mark:

The young man muses, “Unlike you, I have muscle; no need to hide my arms.” :muscle:

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That’s the thing about monochrome, IMHO: you start already with a degree of abstraction…

Starting in rawproc with the color image:

  • gray:0.56,0.42,0.07: The three numbers are the proportions of R,G,and B used to to construct the resulting single-toned pixel. I moved them off the default .21,.72,.07 looking for an interesting alternate emphasis.
  • curve:rgb,0.0,0.0,72.0,28.0,157.0,147.4,255.0,255.0: When I do monochrome, I usually apply an aggressive curve, knowing I don’t have to worry about colors.
  • crop:0.303192,0.245144,0.936170,0.963691: The “tourist” couple needed to go. So did that sunlit bit in the rear. The older man deserved the left third line.
  • denoise:wavelet,0.040000: This is a horrendous degree of denoise. I think it puts a bit of “vintage” into the image.
  • sharpen:5: Just messing around…

@gadolf, excellent image for monochrome… thanks for the opportunity.

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The idea of my crop was that the man left behind something. It may be that he has not got a job like the other men in the picture or he has retired and leaves his old life behind.

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I might be off topic, but I thought life shouldn’t be all black & white only.


I feel that with this crop the photo has become a portrait shot, not a street photography shot! For the same reasoning, I also thought that keeping the shop number 217 for the Dentist and the price board in the picture was important to get the feel of the street.
Of course, both interpretations can co-exist and you can keep both versions!


_MG_4993.CR2.xmp (10.1 KB)

_MG_4993.CR2.pp3 (13.0 KB)

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My try with Filmulator.

Basically I reduced the white clipping point and shadow brightness, and turned up highlight brightness. Everything else is default (besides making it monochrome).

I think this take makes it feel brighter, like the man in the center is squinting through harsh sunlight.


I think that in street portraits Interacting with a subject is very important. Street photography usually captures an unplanned moment.
Does cropping make this photo to a portrait shot? What do you think?

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