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Shooting monochrome to help develop better framing skills


sudopera
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It just crossed my mind a few days ago that maybe I should shoot monochrome in my spare time as much as possible, so I could train myself to frame better and maybe see better compositions without the distraction of colors. Sometimes when there is some fast and spontaneus shooting involved, my mind simply blocks and I hate my average framing/composition in those scenarios, and I find myself thinking if I just had a few more seconds to let my brain to catch up. It seems to me that with b&w I could force myself to pay more attention to composition and contrast, and simply see the details that are important for my framing more clearly.

It certainly won't help over night, but I feel it could pay off in the long term.

Just a tought, what do you guys think?... and don't laugh at me you naturally gifted people :angry:

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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

I do it in terms of stills, always on Black & White, but that's because it's raw and I can get back the colours if I need later. But restricting oneself to B&W, it's a hard one to do, what if you like it too much and wish it was colour? That's the problem. I'll try to shoot more B&W video too so lets see, 

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5 minutes ago, sgreszcz said:

On the latest Panasonic cameras you can put the EVF/LCD in monochrome and it records normally in colour. I have the peaking in yellow which also helps...

Didn't know that, that is great.

I doubt that my Nikon D750 has that option, but I will dig into the menu.

15 minutes ago, Ebrahim Saadawi said:

But restricting oneself to B&W, it's a hard one to do, what if you like it too much and wish it was colour? That's the problem.

I get your point, but I was thinking more about some kind of street/nature/whatever is interesting spontaneus practice shooting, not for regular work... but if some great shots would happen that would be even better in color, well I would just look at the bigger picture and remind myself why I shot it that way in the first place

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3 minutes ago, Ebrahim Saadawi said:

Magiclantern offers it too. Not on the d750 feature set sadly. 

Yeah, it is quite unfortunate that I don't have that option because in this case it is only important that the screen is in b&w so the footage doesn't have to be.

I am already thinking about adding an external monitor/recorder to my kit in the future so I can get that option that way, and for now I will shoot monochrome for fun and practice.

BTW, I must confess that I'm a little bit of a B&W fanboy :grin:

 

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Viewfinders on most ENG cameras past and present are B&W. It can massively help judge critical focus when the image is 'simplified' into a monochromatic range - it's often easier to see contrast and edge sharpness that way.

As for helping composition? - it might help in some cases, but often colour (or lack of) can affect the balance to a composition - which may well be missed if using B&W as monitoring for a colour 'capture'. If you intend to shoot B&W only - then yes, monitoring in B&W is the way to go. 

Best solution may be to have an external monitor or EVF that can quickly switch between mono and colour, that way you can be shooting for B&W - but actually be recording colour. That way you can always have the option of reverting back to colour if needed, but your exposure/ contrast to your compositions would be primarily aimed for B&W delivery. 

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7 minutes ago, Hans Punk said:

Viewfinders on most ENG cameras past and present are B&W. It can massively help judge critical focus when the image is 'simplified' into a monochromatic range - it's often easier to see contrast and edge sharpness that way.

As for helping composition? - it might help in some cases, but often colour (or lack of) can affect the balance to a composition - which may well be missed if using B&W as monitoring for a colour 'capture'. If you intend to shoot B&W only - then yes, monitoring in B&W is the way to go. 

Best solution may be to have an external monitor or EVF that can quickly switch between mono and colour, that way you can be shooting for B&W - but actually be recording colour. That way you can always have the option of reverting back to colour if needed, but your exposure/ contrast to your compositions would be primarily aimed for B&W delivery. 

Yeah, I understand all this but I was just thinking that by shooting or just monitoring in b&w, I can improve my focus on composition and framing, so that when I do regular work and record and monitor in color my eyes and brain are better trained to isolate what is important and what is a distraction and shouldn't be in the frame or should be out of focus.

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12 minutes ago, sudopera said:

Yeah, I understand all this but I was just thinking that by shooting or just monitoring in b&w, I can improve my focus on composition and framing, so that when I do regular work and record and monitor in color my eyes and brain are better trained to isolate what is important and what is a distraction and shouldn't be in the frame or should be out of focus.

Sounds good...I guess find whatever works well for you - there should be no hard rule on what helps in judging composition. B&W shooting can be a great way to achieve this and definitely worth trying out.

My only point was a general one about monitoring in B&W for colour work (and getting too reliant on that) - is that sometimes colour is a critical factor to making a composition work. An ideal solution could be a switchable monitor, where you can toggle to colour/ waveform - just to check that there is no screaming/ distracting colours that would ruin your composition if delivering in colour...Something that could easily be missed if only monitoring in B&W.

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I think the end result would be: you'd become a world-class black & white framer. But you'd still have the same problems when you frame in color.

Framing is a massive part of composition. And color is a massive part of composition.

Here's a super-secret-weapon for all things visual in media - one of the best investments you can make in learning. And hey - it's juts a book, not a college course.

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I don't know, I think it's just kind if easier for a picture to look nice if it's black and white. Which if that's the case, it's maybe the opposite of what you want. Though it does take color out of the equation. Doing a shoot on a single prime, I think is a good way to practice framing. Maybe grab a different focal length each time. maybe stop down to f16 if you can to avoid leaning back on the dreamy bokeh or whatever to make a shot look nice. Maybe consciously say you're centering the subject sometimes or you're using thirds or you wanna throw both of those out the window and do something weird that still looks good (I really hated learning the "rule of thirds", and I'm no pro, but there could be something to just ignoring that). and bringing your camera with you more, of course I wish I didn't feel weird doing that

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Im more for a b&w setting on the screen or evf, not for the finished product.

For stills it's different. Film I love shooting and developing in color. Digital stills somehow always look better in B&W. 

I'm fighting the urge every day not to buy a Leica Monochrome, and have been since release. If their new screenless camera comes in a monochrome model... The fight would be lost.

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On 5/16/2016 at 2:57 PM, sudopera said:

It just crossed my mind a few days ago that maybe I should shoot monochrome in my spare time as much as possible, so I could train myself to frame better and maybe see better compositions without the distraction of colors. Sometimes when there is some fast and spontaneus shooting involved, my mind simply blocks and I hate my average framing/composition in those scenarios, and I find myself thinking if I just had a few more seconds to let my brain to catch up. It seems to me that with b&w I could force myself to pay more attention to composition and contrast, and simply see the details that are important for my framing more clearly.

It certainly won't help over night, but I feel it could pay off in the long term.

an interesting proposition~!

my first thought is: to improve your abilities in this department, i would highly recommend a two-dimensional design class~!

for the uninitiated, the vast majority of what you would learn in such an environment applies to all two-dimensional imagery. a good teacher will demonstrate that fact with visual aids from throughout art history and contemporary work including painting, illustration, graphic design, photography, etc., in order to illuminate design elements and principles.

thats my best ever advice for ALL photographers/filmmakers who havent been forced to do shit like that in art school already lol. seriously tho, many find the experience transformative

not that i dont love black and white photography........

21 hours ago, Mattias Burling said:

I'm fighting the urge every day not to buy a Leica Monochrome, and have been since release. If their new screenless camera comes in a monochrome model... The fight would be lost.

lol omg same. when im rich youll know it because ill have an outrageously expensive screenless monochrome rangefinder ? 

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just FYI,

On the Panasonic AF100, you can set the EVF in B&W for easier focusing, but you can also set the recording mode to B&W. This allows for better compression of the images as the full 24 MBps are used for the Luma encoding only (i.e. the data not used for chroma can be used for additional information on luma channels).

So I think it may be good in that case to record directly in B&W, but you have to get the look right in camera (which is always a good way to work IMO)

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