A Take on B&W Noir Style (feat. Sheila)

It is very seldom that I get a chance to objectively shoot and convert photos to black and white. In fact, this is only my second time. The first was a few years back.

This shoot was inspired by film noir. Cutting my teeth on this concept was technically and visually challenging. The main thing was learning not to be distracted by colors. I had to imagine how every element in the frame would look in b&w to avoid non-contrasting and dull images. For example, I tried not to shoot a close up shot of the face in front of a white wall, it wouldn’t really make any distinction in terms of the degree of difference between lightness and darkness because the tone would be very similar in b&w. As a general rule of thumb, we want our black and white images to be a bit contrasty. A color image would have a lot of contrast because of its colors. So don’t be mislead by color contrast. However, some DSLRs have a feature that allows you to shoot in monochrome. But make sure you are shooting in RAW, this gives you an option to have the colors back.

Although studio lighting offers a great amount of control for this concept, it is also possible to use daylight. A good idea is to create some captivating natural lighting effects that will add interest to the shot. So I meddled with dappled light, direct sunlight and deep shadows. However the process of combining these elements required me to fiddle frequently with exposure settings and meter readings. In retrospect, it just gave me a reason to improve my usage of exposure value in aperture mode. It is kind of like using manual mode, but instead of adjusting the shutter to compensate with the exposure, you are adjusting the exposure value.

Finally, I applied Film grain and Levels in Photoshop to increase the dark and nostalgic atmosphere to the photo. The filters slightly crushed the shadows and the highlights, and eliminated the eminent gray parts of the photos.

Model: Sheila Balisnomo
Hair and Make-up Artist: Allets Malabag


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