Wednesday 16th November 2011 – Clubnight – Hugh Rooney does Black and White

As a departure from our usually unstructured Wednesday evening get-togethers, we had one of our advanced club members, Hugh Rooney, volunteer to give us a talk and practical demonstration on producing high quality black and white prints.

Hugh has produced many great monochrome photographs which have done very well in competitions in the past, both in the club and in NIPA.   For the purposes of demonstration, Hugh used Adobe Lightroom as the software tool for the reason that it allowed him to show the process based on one screen.   He also made the point that users had plenty of choice in the software chosen to create the black and white images, however one thing which was common to all, was that to do the work successfully it is essential to use RAW file format instead of JPG.  As he explained, the adjustments to brightness, contrast, exposure and sharpness on a JPG image quickly leads to a deterioration of image quality.  JPG is already a lossy process where the compression process discards a lot of data.

In his demonstration on an image depicting Venice’s waterfront, conversion from RAW allowed him to manipulate the very bright and very dark areas and indeed recover detail from what looked like overexposed white areas.

This conversion process in Lightroom uses the same underlying software engine found in Adobe Elements and Adobe Camera Raw.  Hugh emphasised the point that good black and white images are normally considered to contain a full range of tones from full black to full white, however he demonstrated some typical examples where this did not necessarily hold true.  Examples were of a pelican and a masked lady in Venice.

Discussion then turned to subject of printing which covered the necessity to calibrate printers and monitors.  Printer calibration has to be carried out for each combination of paper and inks used.  In the club we have a piece of equipment specifically for doing this for windows based computers.  Unfortunately, it does no longer work with the Lion Operating System on Macs.  An upgrade to the software for this is a hefty £500, beyond the club’s reach.

Hugh brought along an extensive range of sample prints where he has experimented with various papers, some of which can be quite expensive.

Unfortunately we didn’t have time  to see any of the photos taken by the group who visited Mountstewart Gardens last Saturday.  See Mark’s post below regarding looking at them next week.  Meanwhile I urge you to take up Mark’s suggestion and take some local photos and bring them in.

David Roberts