Let’s Get Monochrome(ing)

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Penny 1 Comment

Editing your images is the final process in the cycle of the development of your photograph and vision. For me, this is sometimes one of the hardest tasks to do, as I know what I want from the image, it is now applying the editing tools to reflect my vision to the best of my ability.

While in the Mara with Andrew Beck and our groups, we stopped off by a point along the Mara River to revel in the utter enormity of the pod of hippos that were sleeping on the other side of the bank. Now, when I say enormous, I was not only describing the numbers of hippos…they were of gargantuan proportions!

After my initial jaw-dropping reaction, I was drawn to the smallest subject amongst its greater and sleepy comrades; a baby hippo that was trying to stay upright and awake.

Story found, shutter pressed, image created.

Time to process.

As colour was not an important aspect in my image/story, I knew this image was going to be monochrome as I could create more depth and texture with this conversion and enhance my story further.

Here are the steps I used to create my final image:

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Phase 1

Processing this image as I would any of my images in the Basic panel in Lightroom – setting my black and white points, tweaking highlights and shadows where needed, setting my clarity (which I increased more than normal as I wanted to fully expose the textures of the hippos skin), I then converted this image into black and white. I kept the image quite flat, as not only did I not want to lose the textures in the shadow areas and blow the highlights, but because it was now the foundation for phase 2.

Phase 2

Taking the image into Nik Filters’ Silver Efex Pro 2, this is where I really got stuck in. This is an incredible filter for converting images into black and white/monochrome as the amount of control you are given over the various tonal ranges is pretty powerful to say the least!


As you can see by the panel on the right, this is where I used the different sliders to create more contrast between the highlights and shadows, AND Silver Efex enables you to also work with the midtones, equalling more power about more specificity.

I then added a shade of Sepia to get the colour cast to my image. Why this colour? To me, it just suited the image best and gave it a bit more power and oomph than the black and white conversion. As a side note – if you don’t really understand the difference between black and white conversion and monochrome, why not take a look at this short and concise blog.

Phase 3

This did happen in Phase 1, but some things only become obvious at a later stage…

The Further Crop.

A touch more of a crop and for me the difference is immense! The baby hippo has more power in the frame and the white back of the hippo in the bottom right corner is pleasingly gone, leaving me with…

The Final Image

© Penny Robartes - Wildlife and Nature Photographer

The Last to Sleep

Interested in learning more?

The Wild Eye blog is updated regularly with tips, techniques and more are shared willingly! We offer advice and tutelage on every safari, so why not go with a bang and join me and Gerry on the 2015 Big Cats and Tuskers Photo Safari where not only will we be giving photographic tutelage out in the field (the best place to get it!), but we will also be available to assist you in working through your images and enhance your creative vision.

Yes. The Wild Eye team are THAT helpful and passionate!

I look forward to sharing my passion and knowledge of photography and the wild with you.

Penny Robartes

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