Review: Andrew Gibsons “Art of Black and White Photography”

Andrew Gibson’s Art of Black and White Photography teaches the fundamentals that most photographers don’t have today; and it’s part of the 2018 5 Day Deal Photography program.

Lots of folks sit there and say that black and white photography is a crutch for when your editing doesn’t work otherwise, but Andrew Gibsons Art of Black and White Photography is a different beast that begins with telling you to learn how to think in black and white. But that’s sometimes difficult to do as black and white photography has so many different looks. One may most appreciate the looks of a scene with super high contrast scenes and lots of clarity while yet others only adhere to the school of Kodak Tri-X. No matter what level of photographer you are, there is bound to be something that you’re going to learn from Andrew Gibsons Art of Black and White Photography.

The course is a series of videos that includes a number of RAW DNG files for you to edit into black and white images on top of the 21 videos packaged together. It includes portraiture, landscapes, documentary, etc. Traditionally, these are the most popular genres of photography that make up much of the black and white photography world. But overall, what he tends to point out in a lot of good techniques in general. These techniques are all important no matter whether you’re shooting in color or black and white.

The series mostly focuses on Lightroom, so if you’re a photographer using Capture One, then you’re going to need to figure out ways to apply the differences to your software.

Black and White Matte

Before I go deeper into this, I’m going to make the very strong recommendation that you as a photographer shoot in RAW and JPEG. Why? You should ideally set your JPEG to be your camera’s black and white color profile with your own modifications. This way, when you go to edit your RAW file you’ll be able to better understand by looking at the monochrome JPEG what you’ll need to do to get your RAW file to look that way. Sometimes it’s contrast and sometimes there are methods like working with color channels individually. And now…back to our review!

Andrew is pretty darned old school and get down to some of the very basics like starting out by getting rid of dust spots. Personally, I’ve always done things like this later on because if folks can’t see the spots, then it doesn’t matter. He also then discusses the best way to convert to black and white–which is by switching the color profile to it vs lowering the saturation. Here’s a quote from Adobe’s Sharad Mangalick about this that we scored a while ago:

So what’s the difference between desaturation vs grayscale? We asked Sharad Mangalick, the Senior Product Manager of Digital Imaging at Adobe about what each does particularly when working with the images in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. According to him “When you desaturate the image, you are toning down the color. The color information is still there though. Clicking on the black & white button (or using the B&W portion of the HSL panel) converts the image to grayscale. Converting to grayscale allows you to tweak the B&W mix, which is not something that can do when you desaturate the image.”

When going through the editor, it’s often best to work with the color panel (now under black and white) to figure out which sliders you’ll want to move and see how it affects the scene. Part of this requires you to pay careful attention to the scene to begin with. After that, you can work with the more basic adjustments. In general, lots of the more experienced photographers don’t work with those adjustments. He delves deeper in tonal curves, color curves, making your own presets, copying and pasting, etc. Essentially, Andrew Gibsons Art of Black and White Photography course can be considered a great intro for photographers to the program that haven’t used the functions to its fullest potential but it can also be great for those who know these things and want to find a way to apply what they know specifically to the black and white world. It’s amazing what changing parameters like white balance can do to an image even though you’re editing a black and white. In the same way that it changes a scene in color, it will change how a black and white photo looks and is rendered/edited.

To put this into perspective consider the difference between Tungsten white balance and Daylight white balance.

Later on, Andrew gets even deeper by working with what many consider to be the holy grail of black and white photography: Silver Efex Pro 2. This software is now free and can also be used in conjunction with Lightroom.

So would I really recommend Andrew Gibsons Art of Black and White Photography? As part of the 5 Day Deal bundle you’re getting a whole lot of value besides just this option. If you’re very new to the world of black and white photography, have scoffed at it and don’t work to take the most advantage of your images in Lightroom, then this is a bundle you need. But if you’re a photographer who spends tons of time each week in the program, it’s probably the best value to you if you’ve never worked in black and white before or if you don’t usually edit in it. But be sure to also take my extra pieces of advice.