Saturday, June 16, 2012

My Custom Black and White Processing

I have been receiving questions on this blog as well as almost a dozen emails asking me about my black and white photographs. I shall share what I did with my photographs, but do bear in mind that what you saw on my blog are not exactly good examples of black and white photographs. Those photographs are just plainly post-processed in a way that I wanted them to look in certain manner, to suit my own personal vision on how I want my photographs to look like. If you use any of those photographs and show in any photography forums, I am sure they will be bashed and would not pass any criteria of good B&W photos at all. 

1) All photographs were shot in RAW
2) All photographs were converted to monotone via Olympus Viewer 2 software (picture mode: Monotone)
3) At "Color Balance", I added RED +6 to +8, GREEN +1 or +2 and minus BLUE -2 to -3. 
4) At "Hue & Saturation", I played with the hue slider (add green cast or magenta cast), saturation and lightness until I get the balanced look that I had in mind. 
5) Overall on the photograph, I boosted the contrast, and adjusted the exposure balance accordingly. 

The most important thing to keep in mind is that no all photographs can be processed with a fix set of settings, hence paying attention to individual image is important. The above guidelines are just very simple and rough indication on how to achieve the look on my B&W photographs. Alternatively you can use Sepia tone, but I never liked how the default sepia conversion looks. If you are using something more powerful like Photoshop or Lightroom, you may use the similar settings as I have described above. 

All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital 50mm F2 macro lens. 

The Cat Knows

This is not a race

To Cross the Road

Just One Bottle

Hands and Feet

Donning Uniform

Holding on Tight

Morning Walk

Stand Up

Large Coffee


Morning Company

Hang Out in the Backalley

Masked Rider



Market Hunter

To Light a Ciggy

Religion Walking

At the Bend

Scott in the middle

It has been quite some time since I last visited Chow Kit, and I started to miss shooting there. I was glad I made it there this morning, this time together with an army of crazy photographers, attacking the streets. The reason I love Chow Kit so much is because of its diversity in subjects, and every single corner I turn to, there it was, a photo-opportunity waiting. Unfortunately the air quality in Kuala Lumpur is deteriorating, due to the absence of rain for almost one week long, and the thick haze coming in from Indonesian forest burning. Despite the bad air, I did grab a lot of photos the walk along Chow Kit streets have always been very refreshing and fulfilling to me, each and every time. 


  1. Is Luke the only guy in the crowd shooting film?


    1. Hey Ivan,
      Scott is also shooting film today

  2. Hey Robin,

    again, very nice shots.
    It´s every time a joy to view and study your pictures :).

    Cheers from Germany,

    1. Hey Damian,
      thanks for thebkind compliments!!!

  3. Kodus for sharing your edit settings. Not many people are willing/keen to do that.

    1. Hey ching,
      thanks!! Those aren't exactly anything special, and I have been asked too many times!! so sharing won't harm anyone!

  4. Scott is cute in the last photo...

  5. Hi Robin:

    this article and the last one has lots of great images. The last article, combining candid subjects with poster images behind them, thus creating a photo theme, showed lots of creative thought and good planning (or is it more spotting a ideal opportunity at the moment to combine imagery). Loved them!
    Your previous article mentioned trying out Leica lens prime on a Pen. I am looking at adding a prime for low light photography.
    Just wanted to know your favourite lens from Olympus (or Panasonic or Sigma) for m43 PEN use, as I know you have tested out a lot of lens in your reviews and also your local friends have.
    Which lenses in primes did you like best trying in m43 and why, and which did your local friends like and use a lot? From 12/14mm, 20mm, 25mm, 30mm(Sigma), 45mm what advantages do they each have for all day photos or candid street shooting or which primes might people use the most often?

    1. Hey Adrian,
      Thanks for the kind compliments !!
      About the choice of lenses, it really depends on your shooting preferences and style. I generally prefer to work with lenses at longer range, such as the 50mm F2 macro, providing me with some comfortable working distance between me and my subject.
      Do take note that I shoot primarily with E-5, not the PEN or OMD. I only tested and tried some of the lenses very briefly, and that does not qualify me to make conclusions.
      If I were to go full micro 4/3, I would definitely get the 45mm F1.8 !!! That is the closest to my 50mm. All shots in this entry were taken with the 50mm. And of course to go along with that, a wide angle would be nice. depending on budget, 12mm F2 or 14mm F2.5 would do just fine.

  6. Hi Robin,
    Thank you for sharing your processing technique. Good to know how others process their photograph especially B&W.
    I am still a student in photo processing with cheap method of in-camera processing, Picasa for additional touch(if needed) and re-size with Microsoft Office Picture Manager.
    Thank you for sharing those great B&W images which look crispy and good details on your main subject.
    Personally now I giving my more time in shooting 'good' images with great subject matter as per your earlier advice.
    A step at a time.
    Thank you. Have a great weekend. Happy Shooting.
    John Ari Ragai

    1. Hello John,
      Will be extremely busy in the few weekends ahead, photo assignment and also friends visiting from other places.
      When I do find time, will surely drag you out shooting together.

  7. Hi Robin,
    Love your work. Regular reader, first time poster, just got a quick question. How do people on the streets react when they see a large group of photographers shooting at them and others on the street. I just couldn't imagine that happening in Sydney!

    1. Hey Jared,
      Thanks for the kind words. It is very hard to describe how it was happening on the street but it was not as dramatic as you think !! We do not all shoot at the same people or same thing, or all at the same time. We space ourselves out a little, so when we shoot it was not too "intensely crowded". I think you just have to walk with us to find out !!

    2. I will have to take you up on that! As soon as I save some money to travel, that is!

    3. No worries, if you do happen to be in Kuala Lumpur drop me an email.

  8. Wonderful B&W shots. Thanks for sharing your processing tips; great place to start exploring. Toning in photoshop has always been a challenge for me.

  9. Thanks dougstinson,
    Thanks !! It was my pleasure to share !!

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