There is a thing about a monochrome image, one always wants to take a moment to appreciate and study the image. A black and white image is timeless, classical and powerful.
Friends always tease me on the love I have for monochrome. I have never performed a photo shoot without at least a couple of images ending in black and white. The masters who made me fall in love with black and white photography are Greg Gorman, Peter Coulson, Patrick Demarchelier and Herb Ritts.
I always try to keep it simple in my black and white images and tend to use one light or just stick with natural light. At the moment I am experimenting with different techniques and tricks so as in the end I can come up with my own signature black and white photography style.
Shooting for Black and White
It is always helpful and becomes easy in post-production if you intend to shoot for black and white. This does not necessary mean you should use the black and white setting in your camera, NO I would not recommend that. If you shoot black and white with the camera’s setting the images will be JPEGs and then you will lose much data which won’t quite help in post-production. So always shoot RAW files, which will later give you total control in post-production.
I always shoot RAW and under expose to -1 to -2. When I underexpose I see the shadow clearly which I know will later bring drama and contrast when changed to black and white. I mostly use one light source whether it’s natural light or a flash. When shooting women I always face them towards the light unless if I am creating a silhouette. For men, I create a different type of drama without too much to worry because black and white always make them look good. I would say 99.5% of Images of Men I have shot are Black and White. Black and white is powerful and you always want to portray men as powerful.
Post Production: Lightroom
After shooting underexposed in camera then I take the images to Lightroom. I don’t complicate my editing flow in Lightroom since it's already designed to simplify my editing process.
I basically start from the basic panel going down. First I change the image to black and white, in the basic panel. Then play with temp and tint. I never change the exposure at this point. I only play with shadows and highlights. Most of the time I tend to increase the shadows and highlights which will create a more dramatic low key image. I increase clarity and play with black and white if needed in that particular Image.
Tone Curve Panel
I always set it to Medium Contrast and tweak with the shadows and highlights if I needed to increase more drama to the image or reduce it if too much.
Here I increase the sharpness of the image. The following are the settings that I always have in my details panel for my black and white photography. Keep in mind that clarity in the basic panel also increases sharpness so play with both to your liking. I don’t reduce noise because I always soften it up in Photoshop. I also like noise in my image so as to bring texture to the skin so as the image can look real. That is why I am never afraid to shoot with high ISO.
After those minor tweaks in Lightroom, I take the image to Photoshop and do the final adjustments. I use Photoshop to remove wrinkles, unwanted spots and also at times to increase contrast and texture.