J MacDonald Photography
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3 Steps to Seeing In Black and White with your Olympus Mirrorless Cameras

If you have been into photography for any length of time you’ve probably had some interest in, or have tried shooting black and white images. And if you’ve been particularly interested in it, and have started to learn about it, you’ve likely heard the phrase, “seeing in black and white”. This is a wildly popular phrase in the photography education world. With workshops, books, and countless blog posts (including my own) discussing “how to see in black and white”.  But this blog post is not going to be about the “hypothetical seeing in black and white”, but about actually seeing in black and white using your Olympus mirrorless camera. And not only will I show you a few ways to do it,  I’ll also give you a few tips on getting the most from it.  


Part 1:    WHY?

The timeless look of a black and white image is something almost anyone can appreciate. Whether it is the sweeping grand landscapes devoid of color that Ansel Adams created, or the iconic Depression Era work of Dorothea Lange, one thing is certain, a well done black and white images can stand the test of time.  Photographing in black and white not only creates a timeless look, it is also an incredible way to make the patterns and textures of the world around you stand out. When you remove color from the equation, all you are left with is textures, contrasts, and light. Black and white can also be used to remove the distraction of bold colors from a scene to make your subject stand out against a sea of distraction.

My Grandmother the last time I saw her before she passed away.  
E-PM1 + mZuiko 45mm f/1.8

Part 2: WHEN??

When should you should in black and white? This is the hard part to teach. For me personally there are times when I know I will be shooting in B&W based solely on past experiences with shooting a particular location or environment.  A good example is in the streets, and especially at night after it has rained. There is something to be said for a street photo that is in black and white. Again, the term “timeless” comes to mind. And although there are always clues as to the era in which a photo is shot, the emotional connection is what we refer to as timeless. Nothing in the scene feels like it has to be a part of an era….It is just life at any given moment.  Another time I want to shoot in black and white is when I want to create a dramatic and emotional image that color will not contribute to.  Sounds a little abstract I’m sure, but give it a shot. See if you can find a scene that doesn’t need color to make it dramatic.


A storm rolling into my frame as seen through the E-M1 + Rokinon 7.5mm Fisheye

Part 3: HOW? (The Fun Part)

This is the part you’ve been waiting for right? The “HOW” is so easy you won’t believe it, and it may just make you shoot black and white photos more often!!  So let’s get started!!

The first thing we are going to do it set your camera to shoot raw+jpg. The reason we do this is so that you get a black and white image that represents what you see in the camera(the jpg), and you will also get a color raw file. You can skip this step if you only want to “see” in black and white, and not capture a black and white image in the camera. Now, there are several jpg settings we can use, and I prefer to use the LN (Large normal) or LSF(Large superfine).
To get your camera into the raw+jpg mode the first thing we do is navigate to file type setting on the back of the camera. Start off by pressing the OK button, then navigating to the file type on the back of the screen. Hit OK again to open the selection menu, scroll over to the filetype you wish to use. Please refer to the following images to guide you in setting up the file type.

Currently shooting RAW, but we'll change that.

Now I have selected Large Fine JPG + RAW :)

Once you have selected the settings you want, hit OK again to choose it and set it.

Now that we have selected our raw+jpg mode we can move on to setting the camera up in Monotone(B&W) mode. It is as easy as setting up the file type. We start by hitting the OK button again, navigating to the Picture Mode option in the upper right hand side of the rear display, Hit OK once you have it highlighted to open the selection menu. Here you will choose the MONOTONE setting. Hit OK to choose it and now is it set! Please refer again to the visual instructions below.

Selecting Picture Mode here

Now I've selected MONOTONE Picture Mode :)

Now there are a couple of other settings we can adjust. As you can see I like to change mine form the default monotone setting to one with the sharpness,contrast,and color filter altered. Play with these settings to achieve a look you like!

Sharpness Options

Contrast Options

Color Filter (I LOVE RED for dark skies!!)

And color tone. I use NEUTRAL for true B&W. But you can choose color tints as well.

And as you can see from the following image, our camera is now not only showing you an image in black and white….It is capturing an image (jpg) in black and white!!

Now there is no need to guess what a scene might look like in black and white…You will see it that way. 

Eeek!! A Mouse....In B&W  ;)

Now I said there were a couple of ways to go about this right? So here are two more ways.

The first and most obvious is to use the Art Filters! Granted they are a lot different than what we did above, but they still offer very cool results!! The image below was shot using the grainy film Art Filter. 

One of my FIRST Art Filter shots! On the E-M5 MkI

And this one was shot with the Dramatic Tone Art Filter set to Monochrome Mode

Dramatic Tone? In B&W?!?!? YES!!!!!!!

And finally another way to shoot in Monotone is to make your Custom Picture mode be set to monotone. I do this so that I can have my monotone Picture mode set to one look by adjusting the sharpness,contrast, etc…And I have the Custom Picture mode set to monotone with completely different settings. So now my cameras have two very different monotone modes to shoot in.

I love shooting cemetery statuary in B&W :)

So there you have it….Shooting in black and white is beyond easy on the Olympus mirrorless cameras!!!  If you venture out to shoot in black and white after reading this, please share links to your work in the comments below! I’d love to see what you are creating!!