Black & White vs. Color in the Studio

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

orange.setupIf you’ve been reading this blog for a while, by now you’ve already figured it out that Mark and I are fond of shooting black & white photographs. Whether we do it in-camera at capture or later in post-production, we’re just crazy about black & white. Or maybe we’re just crazy.

This was brought home recently to me—either part, including the crazy—when I was making portraits of Chloe using the capable and affordable Shanny speedlights. You can read about that here:



The lighting setup used was a Shanny SN600EX-RF with a 24-inch Chimera Octa 2 Collapsible Beauty Dish that was placed at camera left. It had a front diffuser in place so it acted more like an Octabox. The second speedlight was attached to a 30-inch silver umbrella and served as fill. Background was Savage’s 53-inches x 36-foot Widetone Seamless Background Paper (#24 Orange.) The speedlights were tripped using a Pocket Wizard PlusX because the Shanny has a standard (threaded) PC receptacle and PW provides a cord for that application. orange1 The main speedlight was triggered using the other Shanny’s built-in optical slave, both features highlighting the versatility of the these speedlights.

And so I made the kind of shot that you think I might make using the orange background; it’s shown at right. Camera used was a Panasonic Lumix Gh4 with Lumix G Vario 14-45/F3.5-5.6 lens (at45mm.) Exposure was 1/125 sec at f/7.1 and ISO 200. Both speedlights were set at 1/4 powers and yet were still able to deliver that kind of aperture. Impressive.

And then… I noticed how Chloe gave off a distinctive 1960’s Vogue vibe and so I switched the camera to Monochrome mode; it was set for RAW+JPEG capture and I was surprised—no, I was astonished at the result, especially how the orange background was rendered as classic 18% grey.


The point all this rambling is that there are surprises lurking right around the corner when you start shooting (and thinking) in black & white. Give it a try, just the way I do, using RAW+JPEG that way you have the best of both worlds.