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UCA photography expert reveals how to create top quality black and white images

A photography expert at our Farnham campus has been developing and describing techniques to create digital black and white photographs that can match or exceed the quality of traditional darkroom prints.

Tim Savage, who graduated from the Surrey Institute of Art and Design, one of our founding colleges, with a BA (Hons) Photography degree in 1998 and completed an MA Photography course here in 2010, discusses his research into digital black and white photography in his new book Understanding Digital Black and White Photography: Art and Techniques.

He says: “I began working as a photographer in 1998, which was pretty much right at the tipping point of when the newly emerging digital technologies became valid and comparable alternatives to their analogue equivalents.

“As I transitioned from silver halide to pixels throughout the 2000s, I found myself increasingly feeling let down by the digital reproduction of black and white images. More recently, technological advances have made it easier than ever for photographers to shoot, edit and share monochrome photographs. Although, for me at least, the power of the format can still become lost in the digital world: screen-based images lack physical authenticity, while inkjet prints can appear underwhelming and lifeless when compared with the deep-saturated blacks offered by the traditional wet processes.”

Tim Savage canyon

Using the landscape of the Grand Canyon to capture stunning images, Tim set about researching and refining techniques and workflows to produce best practice black and white images.

“It became clear that choosing the easiest or automated routes to mono, such as the camera’s built in black and white mode or single click black and white software solutions, were functional, but limited,” Tim says. “To achieve powerful black and white images a certain amount of technical knowledge is required. For my purposes, this began by researching and understanding the specification of photographic equipment such as cameras, lenses, computers, monitors, negative scanners, print viewing booths and printers. While selecting the right equipment for the job it is important that variables such as bit depth, colour space and resolution are configured for an optimal black and white workflow.”

Tim Savage black and white photography

Focusing on the skills that underpin photographic creativity as well as the range of outputs and finishes, Tim’s work takes into account a range of variables, from image capture to how best to process and share monochrome images.

“My journey of learning about digital black and white has been inspirational, and has transformed my own practice in relation to black and white image making,” he adds.

Tim now works as a Resources Manager at UCA and has recently attained Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. His book, Understanding Digital Black and White Photography: Art and Techniques, can be found here