Tag Archives: Ngoni Namate

Thinking about colour and monochrome images

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There are some images that I just know need to be monochrome, even before I squeeze the shutter – I think that is perhaps the case for many photographers.  And if I have my film camera with me and it has black and white film in it, then I try to compose and visualise accordingly.  But sometimes I create a colour image and then come to the editing stage and find I have an image which could be either, and it’s not clear to me which one is ‘better’.  This is especially the case when I have a series of images, and I wonder if a monochrome development of one or two individual images might be good.

For example, this image of Ngoni is a case in point.  I have a number of these images of her on the bridge in the snow (in her bikini, in a dress, and in a coat), and this one seemed quite strong when converted to monochrome, emphasising her dark naked skin against the white snow and white bikini, with the bridge playing a less significant role than it appears to in the colour version (of course, that’s also an editing question).  I did eventually put the monochrome image on RedBubble for sale – and you can see a larger version of the image there – but I’m not wholly convinced this is the right one to have used.  The tones (values) of light and darkness are what make or break a monochrome image… and I find I’m not completely sure if this is quite right when examined under these criteria (and you may think this is because it’s not a particularly strong image, despite what I think!).  Of course, in the ‘old days’ a camera would have had either colour or black and white film in it, and composition and visualisation would have been guided accordingly, but in these digital days (even with scans of colour images from film), conversion to monochrome is always an easy possibility – and perhaps this makes life a little bit harder.  Thoughts on all this in the comments section below are most welcome!

And, of course, these questions apply not only to portraits… they also arise when thinking about landscapes.

I’ve struggled with this before…!


Relaxing in the sun

Ngoni relaxing in the winter sun

Ngoni relaxing in the winter sun

I’m not going to create a new blog entry for every image of Ngoni that I process, but this is one of my favourites!  There is something rather mad about being out in the snow in a bikini, but she continually assured me she wasn’t too cold (I was in my thermals, standing in the stream to capture this!).  Before you think I’m a sadist who enjoys inflicting cold on my models, one thing you can’t see is that Ngoni is not really sitting in the snow, but on a hot water bottle wrapped in a white cotton bag – her bum and thighs were probably the only part of her that was really warm!  I’m beginning to put together some images for a little gallery here, but in the meantime I thought it might be interesting to describe a little some of the processes behind making this image.

Trying to capture her naked skin against the mass of white snow was not completely straightforward, partly because (for the camera, at least), the snow dominates the scene.  The camera’s white balance (set to ‘shadow’) still managed to make everything look rather blue, and the snow overwhelmed the camera’s meter, even though I metered for her face (in camera, I didn’t use a lightmeter as I was trying to be as fast as I could to prevent her from getting too cold!  Key settings were ISO400, f4.2, 1/60s, the aperture being designed to create a relatively shallow depth of field).  But because the camera struggled a bit with the dynamic range, along with correcting the white balance and other general edits in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, I needed to carry out some editing just on her body, and others just on the background, involving a tedious selection process (Photoshop’s magic wand etc. found itself being rather confused by the white bikini and the snow, and Ngoni’s legs and the bridge, making a totally manual selection necessary).  Still, this allowed very precise edits to be made for Ngoni and the environment.

Also, although she is, of course, the main feature of this photograph, she occupies a relatively small portion of the overall scene.  I felt that her rather pale makeup, which worked so well in the other shots from the day, got a bit lost here, so I made some adjustments to her makeup as well, which in the small image here is most noticeable in the form of much darker ‘lipstick’ being used.

I love using Lightroom!

Ngoni at the window

Ngoni at the window

I do love Adobe Lightroom’s “Develop” module!  This image of Ngoni was processed in Lightroom and Photoshop.  The Photoshop edits were fairly minimal, and should probably have been done in Lightroom too… this would no doubt have speeded up the editing.  The most substantive changes (from cropping to colour HSL settings, clarity, saturation, etc.) were all done in Lightroom, and I really like the end result: I think it almost looks like a pencil drawing.  Lightroom makes this kind of processing so fast and simple, I would recommend it for every photographer.

Ngoni is actually standing in front of a door here; I’ll be putting up a gallery of images of our shoot together fairly soon, but for now, this image on RedBubble shows the context.

Photographing Ngoni Namate (in the snow…)

Ngoni in the snow

Ngoni in the snow

I had the great pleasure of photographing a new (to me) model yesterday: the fabulous Ngoni Namate.  When we first met a few weeks ago to talk about possible shoots sometime during the next few months, she mentioned that she would really like some photographs in the snow, were it to snow at some point soon…

Well, providing snow pretty much anywhere in northern Europe is currently not such a big problem!  So we met yesterday, and she spent much of the day in gorgeous dresses in the woods – and she even managed not to freeze to death (for those who wonder what it is about ‘my’ models being cold… no, no, no, it’s just a coincidence, honest!).  This is one of the (unprocessed) snapshots of Ngoni from the day – proper edited images to come once I’ve had a bit of time to go through them (not 15 months for most of them!).