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Photography Tips: Produce Terrific Black & Whites

Digicams can take beautiful monochrome shots, but you'll need to do more than Just flip the switch to B&W mode.

Shoot in color.
Digicams grab a wider range of tones in color mode because they're capturing data for three channels - red, green, and blue. Convert your images to black and white in postproduction.

Light at an angle.
Head-on lighting often results in flat, low-contrast images. Instead, try to have the light hit your subject at an angle. This highlights one side and throws shadows on the other.

Adjust exposure manually.
Identify the key element in your image and decide how dark you want it (light gray, or whatever). Then over- or underexpose the shot until it has the tonal value you're going for.

Use Photoshop's Channel Mixer.
To maximize contrast and impact, convert your images to black and white with the Channel Mixer. It lets you select the best tones from the red, green, and blue information in the file.

Snap Killer Candids
That new 8-megapixel digital SLR may boast split-second autofocus, but it still can't do anything about the lifeless "Say cheese!" moments filling up your hard drive. For pointers on better quick pics, we turned to paparazzo Ron Galella. But proceed with caution: Galella's efforts got him sued by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and socked by Marlon Brando.

1) Look for light - specifically, reflected light to fill in the subject's features. Hallways and small rooms bounce light around, which can counter the hardness of the flash. Look for 10-foot ceilings and stand 3 to 4 feet from the wall behind you.

2) Don't pose subjects. People look relaxed and comfortable when they're engaged in activity - smoking a cigarette, fixing their hair, petting the dog. Anything that keeps their mind off your lens is good.

3) Use the naked eye. Forget that your camera has a viewfinder and an LCD. Get everything in focus, then hold the cam in front of you and rely on your own sight. This lets your subjects warm up to you and helps you read their expressions.

4) Shoot first... Don't worry about framing the perfect shot while the camera is in your hand. Keep moving, getting as many angles and moods as possible. Click fast and often.

5) ... Compose later. Back at home, you can refine your raw material into a beautifully composed candid. Purists like Henri Cartier-Bresson shunned cropping as a kind of photographic half-truth; for the rest of us, there's Photoshop.