Black and White and Tattooed All Over

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A man grimaces while he gets a sacred Sak Yant tattoo at Wat Bang Phra.
A man grimaces while he gets a sacred Sak Yant tattoo at Wat Bang Phra.

All that is old is new again and in homage to my early days as a newspaper photographer, I’ve been messing around lately with working in black and white.

I thought the Wai Kru Ceremony at Wat Bang Phra would lend itself to black and white. When I got out to the temple I set my cameras to record both raw and JPEG. The raw files are the basic file straight off the sensor in the camera’s native format, the JPEG is processed in camera with the parameters I set.

A man channels the spirit of his tiger tattoo during the Wai Kru.
A man channels the spirit of his tiger tattoo during the Wai Kru.

Working in black and white has never been easier. Lightroom makes excellent black and white conversions and there are applications like DxO Film Pack and Nik Silver Efex Pro that simulate the look and feel of classic black and white films. Even though I own a copy of DxO Film Pack, I’ve never used it – it feels a bit like cheating.

If I want a picture to be in black and white, I am going to make the picture in black and white at the decisive moment. Call me old school (or a Luddite).

Working this way, saving both raw files and JPEGs, I have two copies of every photo. This is important for sales and reuse since there isn’t very much of a market for black and white photos anymore. Even if a photo is ultimately going to run in B&W, most publications would rather start with a color original and make their own conversions.

Medics bring a man out of a trance state during the Wai Kru.
Medics bring a man out of a trance state during the Wai Kru.

The JPEG, on the other hand, is processed with the parameters sets in-camera. If I want a black and white photo, I set the camera’s parameters to record in black and white. I’ve fine-tuned the in camera JPEGs a little. I have the sharpness adjusted up one step but the tonality and contrast are unchanged.

While I process all of the photos in Lightroom, I store the color raw files and B&W JPEGs in separate folders in my LR catalog because I want to sort and edit them separately.