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Book Review: Black And White: From Snapshots To Great Shots by John Batdorff

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You have a nice camera, and now you want to learn how to create quality black and white photos. With the advent of the digital camera, the methods and techniques for creating black and white images have changed drastically since the days of film. There are many ways and techniques that can be used to get high quality monochrome images.

The goal of Black And White: From Snapshots To Great Shots is to provide step-by-step instruction from taking the shot, through the color conversion, and final processing, so that you can create great images. Black And White: From Snapshots To Great Shots is 240 pages in length and is contained in six chapters.

Chapter One, “Equipment and Settings,” begins with the concept that it is the photographer that takes a great photo, not the camera. But even with that, there is a certain amount of equipment that one needs to have at their disposal. This becomes the essential kit.

In this chapter you will look at what is in the author’s camera bag and why. This includes camera, lenses, flash cards, tripod, cable release, filters, levels, lens cleaning solutions, as well as things that don’t go in to the field like post processing software, and monitor calibration equipment. Batdorf also looks at camera settings and provides tips to understand color.

Chapter Two, “Composition and Light,” looks at the basics of what constitutes a beautiful black-and-white photograph. To create one you not only have to have the necessary ingredients, but you must bring them together to create a coherent image.

Now you look at the different kinds of lighting – low key, high key, and how these can affect your image. You look at contrast, composition, shapes, forms, lines, and textures. You will also look at motion, framing, and even when to break the rules.

Chapter Three, “Exposure,” is about getting the shot. It is through the understanding of exposure and knowing how to create the right scene that is critical to the creation of your vision. This comes with practice and the building up of confidence over time. Soon you will gain your own feel and technique for getting the right shot.

This chapter is a bit more technical because it takes a look at aperture, speed, and ISO and how they work together to bring out a great exposure. Here you will look at how these three can balance to create the perfect exposure, how to expose for post-processing, the use of filters, and how to expose for a differing variety of styles of photography.

Chapter Four, “Postprocessing,” examines how to complete your vision through the use of Adobe Lightroom. Now that you have the image correct within the camera, it is time to get the image out of the camera and to a place where others can also see it. The primary software that the author uses is Adobe Lightroom and a Nik Software plug-in called Silver Efex Pro 2.

Here you see the author’s workflow and how he processes his images. In this chapter, he focues on Lightroom and steps you through the Library module and Develop module showing you exactly the type of settings he applies to the photos. Topics include contrast adjustments, using curves, and selective color changes. Batdorf finishes up with putting it all together so it is ready for converting to black-and-white.

Chapter Five, “Black-and-White Effects,” takes your pre-processed image to the next level through the use of the plug-in Silver Efex Pro 2. According to the author this is a product that makes it easy, fun, and is very powerful to use in creating high quality black-and-white images.

This chapter is broken in to three sections. The first looks at the Silver Efex Pro (SEP) interface — the menu, the various panels, and how the controls work. Then you see how to set up and use SEP for your photos, and finally you will work with some of the things that it can do for your images.

Chapter Six, “Print, Post, and Share,” is all about what you really take photographs for, and that is to share them with your family, friends, possibly with clients, and sometimes even with the world.

Here you will look at putting on the finishing touches to your image to make sure all is well. Next you see how you can print your work. This chapter talks about printers, paper, and profiles so that what you see on the screen, comes out on the page. You will also look at using a print house to generate your photos and the various options there. Finally you will look at sharing your images on various places on the internet and how to get this done.

I really like the way Black And White: From Snapshots To Great Shots is laid out. Each chapter begins with an introduction. Then you have two sidebar spreads called “Pouring over the Picture” that feature an image and a discussion about the image. It includes the settings on how the picture was captured and dialog as well as arrows highlighting specific item within the shot.

It then goes in to the main material, but illustrates and highlights with many shots and descriptions. It is very easy to read and understand. The author does a great job of pulling out the main points with creating black-and-white images and making them easy to apply to your own work. If you want to get into creating black-and-white photographs or if you are already creating them, but want to learn how to improve on your techniques then I very highly recommend Black And White: From Snapshots To Great Shots.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.