I’ve been doing it on and off for a while, but I seem to be getting more and more into shooting B&W for personal images recently. I like to shoot in-camera JPEGs as much as possible, especially for personal use, why bother spending all that time in Photoshop or Lightroom when you can be taking more photographs instead! So on that basis I thought I’d do a brief article about shooting B&W images in-camera on the Fujifilm X-Series bodies.
Because of the way Fujifilm have designed their X-Series cameras, these settings work on all their X-Series bodies, which means you will be able to enter in the settings and get the same results no matter which one you own. The only time things will look different are perhaps if you have an X100 which doesn’t use the X-Trans sensor, but as that affects colour more than B&W I suspect you’ll get very similar results. Even the Fujifilm point-and-shoot cameras like the XQ1/XF1 allow you to adjust these settings, although you have to do it in the menu as there is no Q menu on these cameras.
One of the great things about shooting in B&W is that they tend to be less fussy to noise, so shooting at high ISO, 6400 (or above) on the APS-C cameras and 3200 on the smaller bodies is not a problem as the images tend to look much cleaner in B&W. It is often a workable solution to get around an image that could be a problem and look poor quality in colour.
About as still as I can get her!
I like my B&W images to be quite contrasty, so the first thing I do is to boost the shadow and high tones. The easiest way to do that is using the Q menu. You can fiddle with the settings to get the look you like, but I shoot with H tone +1 an S tone +2 NR -1 DR100 and the standard B&W mode. I’m not a fan of the colour filter B&W modes simply because they all affect different colours, so unless you’re only shooting one particular type of shot (e.g. portrait or landscape only) then you can end up with some not so pleasant effects, especially portraits where certain colour filters has a nasty effect on skin. I like things a bit more general so I can shoot what I want straight away without having to change the setting depending on what I’m shooting.
If you want to use the filters then as a guide the red filter tends in increase contrast in general, the yellow filter can smooth out skin tones and the green filter can enhance contrast for landscape photographers in the trees and grass, but has the opposite effect of reducing contrast in the sky.
You can see below that the yellow filter works well with skin, but red and especially green are not very flattering.
I’ve put together below a very quick example of what the images look like with different highlight and shadow settings.
Why do I shoot +2 shadows and +1 highlights if I like lot of contrast. Well, I like deep shadows, but at +2 highlights it is very easy to blow out all the lighter areas, I find this particularly true with faces, and if there is just too much contrast in the face it can end up with a not so flattering image. If you’re shooting mainly white or light skinned people they tend to have more highlights in their face than shadows, so by just notching that down a little it helps to keep the lighter shades in check and gives a softer more natural looking skin.
Not the best example, but you can see below the difference. Just reducing the highlights by one stop helps smooth out the skin.
If you’re intending to adjust each image in Lightroom yourself then either shoot RAW or JPEG with -2 -2 to get flat files you can work with. Be aware that shooting RAW files might sound like a great idea, but RAW files are 33.5Mb and JPEGs around 4Mb to 5Mb. RAW files will soon find you needing to buy a lot more storage! Choose wisely and sensibly depending on what you are doing. Don’t believe the myth that all pros shoot only RAW all the time!
One of the great things about shooting in the B&W modes on the X-Series is that you can ‘see’ in B&W, and the settings you put into the camera will be exactly reflected on the screen or EVF. That for me is one of the big advantages of shooting mirrorless for this sort of thing. Even if you choose to shoot RAW, select the B&W mode and the camera will show you the image in B&W.
Let me know what settings you like and why in the comments below.
Below are a small selection of images I’ve taken in B&W with various X-Series cameras over the past year or two.