In a blatant grab for more views, more pictures of The Boy.

So, my last post was my most popular post yet.  It got 3 times as many views as the next most popular post.  Since my photography skills haven't improved THAT much I'm guessing it had a little something to do with the subject of the photo.  So with that in mind I decided that my subject would again be The Boy. (It also helps that he's a very easy and fun subject to photography.)

Last week's challenge was Monochrome.  The photographs could be black and white, or sepia, or any other color, as long as it was monochromatic.  I'm not a fan of photographs that are normally black and white and tinted with colors so I decided to create a black and white photo for my submission.  Taking good black and white photos in the age of digital photography is not as simple as changing your camera to take black and white photos.  The best way is to take color photos and then convert them with your software tool of choice.  I knew this ahead of time so I felt confident in my approach. What I didn’t know is how much of a challenge it would be to convert the photographs in a way that I liked.

My plan to get some good black and white photos was straightforward.  It was a beautiful sunny day on Saturday so I would take The Boy out to the park.  He loves playing and running around, like any 3 year old does, and I would bring the camera along to take a few photos.  As a side benefit I hoped that he would get tired enough to take a nap, he didn't.  I also was going to take The Boy up to visit my parents for a few hours so I figured I would be able to get some good shots there.

We had a mostly good time at the park, I won't get into how he tried to run too far ahead of me and into the road.  He ran around and climbed up on the big toys and went down the slides.  I made sure that I was a good dad and put the camera away after I got a few shots and played with him.  We then headed over to another park that's connected to the main playground area that's a beach/swim area.  It was too cold to swim so The Boy threw some rocks into the water and played on the beach.

After he refused to nap we went up to my parent's to visit.  He immediately went down to my brother's old room to start digging out the toys in the toy box that survived both my brother's and my childhood.  He made a huge mess and had a lot of fun.  He then made my Dad and I take him outside.  He walked around and inspected everything and I got some great shots of the two of them together.

I got home and started editing the photos.  It was at this point that I ran into trouble.  I wasn't happy with the black and white conversion process in Lightroom, my main photo organization/editing software.  The pictures were coming out too flat; they didn't have the depth that good black and white photos have.  I didn't have the control that I wanted over how they were turning out.  After doing some research I found that there were a variety of options that went from what I had been doing, simple/no control, to complex and offered tons of control.  I didn't want to spend forever editing each photo so I had to look for a method that offered some control and was fairly easy to learn.  I also wanted to avoid having to buy yet more software, though I have heard great things about some plug-ins for Photoshop and Lightroom.  I finally found a method that fit the bill and off I went to re-edit my photos.

Below are the photos I liked best first in color and then in black and white.

The original.

The original.

And now in black and white

And now in black and white

This next one was inspired by a photo my wife took of The Boy.

The wife as a pretty good eye herself.  She also helps me review all of my photos.

The wife as a pretty good eye herself.  She also helps me review all of my photos.

My take on The Boy sitting in the playground toy.

My take on The Boy sitting in the playground toy.

The black and white version.

The black and white version.

The Boy having fun on the beach with Lake Washington behind him.

The Boy having fun on the beach with Lake Washington behind him.

While I like the black and white I think I prefer the color version a little more.

While I like the black and white I think I prefer the color version a little more.

Looking at the rocks on the beach.

Looking at the rocks on the beach.

I like how the focus is more on his face in this version.

I like how the focus is more on his face in this version.

Searching in the sand.

Searching in the sand.

The black and white focuses the eye on the texture of the beach and what he's doing.

The black and white focuses the eye on the texture of the beach and what he's doing.

Yay! Toys!

Yay! Toys!

The eye now goes directly to his face.

The eye now goes directly to his face.

The light wasn't that great at this point in the afternoon.  Though I love this photo of them.

The light wasn't that great at this point in the afternoon.  Though I love this photo of them.

I think this works much better.

I think this works much better.

Another one I like of the two of them.

Another one I like of the two of them.

And the final photo.

And the final photo.

Even with my slightly improved ability to edit photos in black and white there are some pictures that should remain in color.  While these are my favorites that I took that day not all of them translate well into black and white. Regardless of the outcome of the individual pictures I now have a better idea of what goes into making a good black and white photograph.  Now that I know better how to convert a picture into black and white I know what to look for when I shoot. Good black and whites often show amazing texture, focus on people’s expressions, and contrasting light and dark areas.  As my understanding and technique continues to improve my photography will continue as well.