Yes, that's right. We now refer to Nora as "pillowy," in addition to roly poly. (Jeff deserves credit for this new descriptor.) So for Nora's 5-month portraits, I decided to convert the images to black and white to capture the full glory of her pillowy, roly poly self. Black and white can create a softness that is tough to come by in color.
Despite wielding a camera for more than 20 years, I still learn something each time I compose a photo or sit down to edit one. I'm not exaggerating. The constant learning is something I love about photography. If I want to try a new editing technique, I just start Googling to find a few free tutorials on the subject. It's so much easier now than it used to be to find useful photography information.
In the spirit of sharing photo tips, I planned to write a full-on tutorial about creating quality black and white images, but then I got started and thought, "Oh my gosh. I don't have time to write this right now!" (Contrary to what some people think, you typically have to do more than hit a "black and white button" in your editing software to create a pretty black and white photo.)
Instead I'll point you to Google or Pinterest for more in-depth tutorials, and you can just enjoy these photos and few pointers to supplement your own findings.
Start with good lighting. Black and white photos can be either stunning and dramatic...or just plain boring. Despite the effect you're going for, you typically want to capture the full range of light from black to white, not just a mish-mash of (boring) grays.
I like to take baby portraits in my bedroom, which gets a ton of indirect sunlight from South-facing windows. Good lighting lays the bones for a quality image, whether black and white or color.
Increase the black, increase the white and brighten the gray. There are many ways to accomplish these edits. I’ve used Photoshop since the dawn of time—thanks to my dad, who introduced me to it—and have added Camera Raw into my repertoire in more recent years.
In these photos, I lightened each image by increasing the exposure but reducing the brightness/highlights, so I wouldn’t bleach out Nora’s skin and lose the detail of those little folds and creases. I also wanted to maintain some of the detail of the beautiful blanket she is lying on, which my aunt made for us as a wedding gift. (Thank you, Ann!) To accentuate Nora's dark eyes, I increased the black/shadows and lightened the gray tones.
I love these rolls!
Experiment with contrast. Increasing contrast can create more drama while reducing it can create a flatter, grayish image. However, too much contrast can be, well, too much. So I play around with the contrast slider to further tweak the range of black-to-white without making the image too stark. Again, you don’t want to lose all detail in either the dark or bright areas.
I couldn't resist a detail shot of these goofy ears before her hair grows in and covers them up.
When a photo—either black and white or color—catches your eye, study it to figure out what draws you in. Then try to emulate. I collect family photography ideas here.
I'm Julia Soplop, writer and photographer. I believe there is something profound in bearing witness to moments of joy and pain in others’ lives. My husband, three girls and I live outside of Chapel Hill, NC. You can read more about me here.
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5-month portraits + b&w tips
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