Nightscapes – black and white at night

This series about ‘nightscapes’ has been all about light – from getting away from it (light pollution) to observing and understanding it, to manipulating and being creative with it. There has been a focus on the use of colour to enhance night time images. An alternative is to focus on form and shades of light rather than colour. Black and white photography can produce some striking images and it is interesting to apply it to nightscapes. Below are some of the previous images used in this series converted to black and white. To convert to black and white I simply used the Silver Efex Pro plugin for Lightroom however just about any imaging program or camera for that matter can convert photos to black and white.


In the second and third photos above I used a torch to shine some light on the foreground areas of the images to provide some areas of visual interest.  When converted to black and white this technique can produce some quite striking effects.

Some thoughts on Black and White
Your camera may support a number of different presets for black and white photography (e.g. monochrome, sepia, high-contrast black and white). Try the different settings to see the effects. If you are using a photo editing program such as Lightroom, Photoshop, iPhoto etc you will have access to more presets but you will also be able to manipulate the conversion process itself.

For example in Lightroom, in the Develop module if I select Black and White I can manipulate the saturation levels of the different colours. To illustrate this, in the images below I have altered the saturation levels of the reds in the conversion process. The first photo is the colour version of the red car and the second is the standard black and white conversion. In the third photo I have pushed the saturation levels of the reds to almost +100 and the ‘colour’ of the is now almost white, quite different from the mid-grey of the standard conversion. In the fourth photo I have reduced the saturation levels of the reds to almost -100 and the car now appears black. You can do this for all colours (eg blues, greens, yellows etc) to create some quite different conversions.

Try this with your images.

red car

Colour version of red car

standard BW conversion

Standard black and white conversion

saturated reds BW conversion

Saturated reds conversion to black and white

de-saturated reds BW conversion

De-saturated reds conversion to black and white


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