Do not use in camera black & white setting - photography tip

I am following up last week's black & white photography tip with yet another this week.  Many digital cameras have the option to shoot in black & white right from the camera.  This may sound very convenient, but as usual with convenience there comes a trade-off, in this case less image data.  To illustrate this I set my Nikon D300 to shoot in monochrome mode for the shot on the left and then in standard mode for the shot on the right, which I then converted to black & white in Silver Efex Pro.  Both photos were large, fine jpg.  As you can see, the converted image contains a half megabyte more of data (12.8% more).  The difference in the amount of data will vary from shot to shot, and in this case it is a bit of a smaller difference, but you will always end up with more data by converting the image to black and white.  What that means is a better final image quality, especially for prints.

Other reasons to always shoot in color and then convert to black & white later include:

  • Silver Efex Pro allows for much more variety of black & white conversions
  • You may actually like the color image better
  • The color image can be shot in RAW

So I highly recommend always shooting in standard mode, and then later converting images into black & white using a powerful app like Silver Efex Pro to produce the best looking black & white images possible.