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Classic Black and White Portraits

There is something timeless about a black and white portrait. It eliminates the distraction of color and puts all the emphasis on the subject. To get great black and whites without having to resort to any image-processing software, set your picture control to Monochrome (Figure 6.9). You should know that the picture controls are automatically applied when shooting with the JPEG file format. If you are shooting in RAW, the picture that shows up on your rear LCD display will look black and white, but it will appear as a color image if you open it in non-Nikon RAW processing software (like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom). This is because the nature of RAW data is that it hasn’t been processed by the camera. If using Nikon’s ViewNX 2 or Capture NX-D software, you’ll see the assigned picture control when you first open the photo, but you can use the software to apply any picture control to your RAW image.

Figure 6.9

Figure 6.9 Getting great black and white portraits is as simple as setting the picture control to Monochrome.

ISO 400 • 1/400 sec. • f/3.5 • 24mm lens

The real key to using the Monochrome picture control is to customize it for your portrait subject. The control can be changed to alter the sharpness and contrast. For children and puppies, and anyone else who should look somewhat soft, set the Sharpness setting to 0 or 1. For old cowboys, longshoremen, and anyone else you want to look really detailed, try a setting of 6 or 7. I typically like to leave Contrast at a setting of around –1 or –2. This gives me a nice range of tones throughout the image.

The other adjustment you should try is changing the picture control’s Filter effect from None to one of the four available settings (Yellow, Orange, Red, or Green). Using the filters will have the effect of either lightening or darkening the skin tones. The Red and Yellow filters usually lighten skin, while the Green filter can make skin appear a bit darker. Experiment to see which one works best for your subject.

Setting your picture control to Monochrome

  1. Press the i button to activate the cursor in the information screen.
  2. Use the Multi-selector to move the cursor to the Set Picture Control icon, and press the OK button.
  3. Select the MC setting, and then press the OK button (A).

Customizing your Monochrome picture control

  1. Start by pressing the Menu button.
  2. Navigate to Shooting Menu, select Manage Picture Control (B), and press OK.
  3. Select Save/Edit, and press OK again.
  4. Scroll down to Monochrome (C), and then press the Multi-selector to the right to enter the customization screen. (Don’t hit the OK button here or it will go right to the Save As screen.)

  5. Now that you are in the customize screen, make the desired changes to each of the different items (move the Multi-selector up or down to select the item you want to change, and left to right to change the settings) (D).

  6. When you have everything set the way you want, press the OK button to save your new custom settings. Select the first available slot (C-1), and press right on the Multi-selector (E). You can now use the default name or type in one of your own. To delete the current name, use the Command dial to select the letter location and hit the Delete (trash can) button. Then use the Multi-selector to spell the new name (F). When done, press the OK button.

  7. To use the new setting, follow the previous set of directions for selecting a picture control, except this time choose C-1 instead of MC.
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