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Lighting For Black & White

Lesson 19 from: Introduction to Flash for Children and Family Images

Mike Hagen

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Lesson Info

19. Lighting For Black & White

Lesson Info

Lighting For Black & White

I think every photographer learning how to use your flash, should understand what changes mentally when you take black and white photographs. We're gonna start with color. A lot of your cameras, when you shoot raw, actually, you can have the selection to shoot black and white, or color. Actually the same goes for JPEGS, you can shoot black and white, or color, inside the camera for JPEGS too. But, with a raw file, I highly recommend... I'm sorry with black and white photography, I highly recommend you shoot a raw file. That allows you the chance to change it later inside of software. If you shoot in your camera in black and white, as a JPEG, well then you lose all of your color data. Now, as you know, I'm gonna go a little bit on the technical side here, as you know, a JPEG, color, and a raw color file, have three color channels, red, green, and blue. You have data in all of these three color channels as well, so you have RGB, and then depending on your file size, you have bits of data...

in each of those color channels. When you cut all that out, and you shoot black and white JPEGS, you lose all of the red, green, and blue data, and so when you go into Lightroom to work on it, you've only got one channel of information. That's just tonality, from shadows to highlights. You only get a few bits of data to work with, if you start with a single JPEG photo. Start with raw, and when you have raw, now you've got all of the data and when you do your black and white conversion in software, you can mess around with the different color channels. You can take away a little red, to make the skin darker, you can add a little red, to make the skin brighter, you can mess with the blue channel, and the green channel. You get a lot more flexibility. I know this is a flash class, but you gotta be a well-rounded photographer, and that's part of being a well-rounded photographer. Shoot raw, you'll hear that a lot today. My plan, is to shoot three different concepts with black and white, in our last segment. We're gonna move kind of fast. At this point in the show, you should understand already what our exposures are, what our apertures are, what are ISOs are, so I'm just gonna move quickly through all that stuff. Mostly showing you light positions, and then concepts around what I'm thinking photographically for posing the kids. To do that, we're gonna start out here with a gray backdrop, so I've got the gray seamless. I'll probably have maybe two or three of the girls come up and we'll take a few shots on the gray seamless. I'm just gonna show position of light, and how that impacts the overall look in a black and white image. Then, we're gonna pull out the seamless, actually we're gonna clamp on some white fabric and bring in the couch, and we'll do something where the kid has got their head on this white fabric and this really soft ethereal look. The last thing, is we're gonna create some heirloom portraits and I'm gonna have each of the girls stand here, and look very astute, and astir, and proud, and proper. We're gonna take these photos that look like they could have been taken in any century, and the idea then is that the mom and the dad can frame those and put those on the wall side by side, and they can become family heirlooms. That's the plan for this segment. If you're ready, then I'm ready. Let me check my presentation here, and make sure there's no technical information that I'm bypassing. Well, let's look at a couple photos first, we always gotta look at photos. Here's some black and white images that I took a couple of weeks ago, of a young family. You can see the different look, the different feel, it's all about tonality. A lot of times with my black and whites, for me, it's just a personal thing, I like them to be a little bit more serious, in general. They're a little bit less happy, a little bit less giddy. You can see in my poses, and in my facial expressions, a lot of times I think of black and white as a little bit more, I don't know what the right words is, just more serious. Here's an idea, I took head hots of each of these kids, and I asked each of them to open their eyes nice and bright, and then look straight at the camera. I've used this term before in my teaching, and I think I even put it in a slide today, the term mirth, mirth-y. I don't even know if mirth-y is a word, but you can see there's just a little bit of smile behind the seriousness, and that's often times what I'm after. This photo, now what you guys are lighting experts, 'cause you been through my class, you can probably figure out how I lit this image. Let's just take that apart a little bit, I'll walk over here to the screen. You see a catch light in the top of the eye, and a catch light in the bottom of the eye, so what that is, it's called clam shell lighting. When you work with a single individual, you have a lot more control and ability to set your lights, so I've got one light above and then a reflector below. We'll produce a clam shell light with a couple of the kids today and then we'll also do some side lighting, just to give you the full spectrum of light. This is in between just a straight black and white shot, and then an heirloom shot. It's not quite heirloom in my mind, the reason why, is because of the clothing, she's wearing jeans, and jeans aren't necessarily timeless. I think dresses are timeless, and nice suits are kind of timeless. In this case, it's just a good mix in between the too. This is kind of a full length portrait, and so to do this, you guys already know the answer, and that is big umbrella, or big softbox, because we're illuminating the whole body here. Alright, we'll get to heirloom in just a minute.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Children & Family Images Lighting Diagrams
Gear List for $100 Budget
Gear List for $250 Budget
Gear List for $1000 Budget

Ratings and Reviews


Great course really love the way Mike teaches so informative with very useful tips and tricks to use in photography

Dortohy Lyner

Loved this class. Great basic essential information. Mike filled in many gaps concerning my knowledge of studio photography.


Love the natural way Mike has to explain and to work on the studio. Plenty of tips and clear knowledge transfer for me that I manage quite well natural light but that I still mess with the on-camera flash.

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