Just a couple of weeks ago I posted an article about using white balance shift to achieve different looks in color photographs. What you may not be aware of is that white balance shift can be used to adjust the look of black-and-white images, and it can sometimes be surprisingly dramatic how much it changes things. White balance shift is an unexpected tool that allows you to better achieve desired results in monochrome.
When you shift the white balance it changes how different colors are rendered, so it only makes sense that the grey interpretation of those colors would also be different. Some colors might appear as darker shades of grey and some as lighter. The tones shift, creating a slightly different rendering of the scene. It could be very subtle or it could be quite apparent, but indeed the monochrome interpretation has been altered.
Let’s take a look at the photo below. I reprocessed the same exposure using the RAW developer built into the Fujifilm X-T20, with each version having identical settings except for the white balance shift. I used the Acros+R Film Simulation for this image. As you can see, each adjustment changes the look of the image. For instance, the sky has some areas of bright white in the top version, which is the overall brightest picture, but not the bottom version, which is overall the darkest picture. The highlights on the mountain are handled a little differently in the top and bottom versions. The two middle versions fall in-between, and are only very subtly different from each other.
If I were to use Acros+G, the white balance shift would manipulate the image differently than what you see above. It still changes things, but not in the same way. That goes for Acros and Acros+Y, as well. It makes sense when you consider that Acros+Y, Acros+R, and Acros+G settings are designed to simulate the look of using colored filters on real black-and-white film. One must consider the color cast that is being applied to an image, and how the different Acros options will render that.
I’m still figuring out how to use this knowledge in actual real life situations. It’s one thing to apply it when redeveloping a RAW file, and another thing to use it in the field, applying it before the exposure. The latter option is where I’d like to be, but it will take a lot more practice. It’s certainly fun to play with! White balance shift is an interesting option for getting the grey tones more precisely where you want them to be in black and white photographs.