As we are now in Spring I have noticed the contrast levels have been really ramping up. I did a little photowalk on Saturday and was very disappointed with some of my high contrast shots. My metering technique seems to have gotten a little sloppy, so with that through I deliberately went out today to shoot some high contrast test shots.
The first few shots were taken in a coffee shop, this was dark and had mixed lighting so I took out the grey card and did a manual white balance. Its quick and easy and I have to admit did make the photographs look a lot better.
I took the grey card measurement in the shadow, I tend to like the shadows to be correct and its less of an issue if the sunlight is a little warm. If you take the grey card measurement in the sun then the shadows can go a little blue and cold looking, though it does depend on the affect your after.
Above is one of the high contrast shots I took, a mix of bright sunshine on white paper and dark deep shadows. I exposed to the right and recovered the white of the book in camera RAW with exposure and highlight recovery, a bit of shadow fill, but not too much has made the scene realistic but you can still see there is writing on the white paper and its not blown out.
Getting the white balance correct may seem unimportant for Black & White work but it still is important to get it right. It gives you a common starting place and makes getting the tones you want easier. Again the level of contrast in this picture is far to high to get the whites and blacks both correct. I took a couple of test shots then set the camera to manual exposure to get the result I thought was best. Then it was just a matter of waiting until the scene developed. With low light, high ISO and low shutter speeds, blur and noise is unavoidable but I think its a pleasing scene.
Too many people take technically perfect shots of boring subjects instead of interesting shots. I believe it may have been Henri Cartier-Bresson who said that “Sharpness is a bourgeois concept”. Fashion and advertising photographers want sharpness and perfection, for the rest of us, interesting photographs should be our goal.