Canon 7D Tips – Black & White Photography

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To be honest, I have not thought about shooting in black & white for years.  Back in my film days, it was getting harder and harder to find someone local that would process and print B&W film.  Then I bought the Canon 20D, and I never looked back.  But, thanks to all my new Friends on Facebook, I have been inspired.  B&W is used in such creative ways today to produce photos with drama and beauty that is lost in full color.

Canon 7D Camera Settings


Yes, the Canon 7D has a B&W mode.  It is available as a Picture Style from the button on the back of the camera (see the red ring above).  Use the Multi-function Controller (joystick) to select the M – Monochrome Picture Style.  If you click the Info button, you can customize the setting further.  Best yet, the Canon 7D has built-in Filter Effects to simulate shooting with Yellow, Orange, Red, Blue and Green Filters.  The wonders of digital – no more expensive color filters to forget to pack!

Hint – if you are new to B&W, just remember the following tips:

  • Red Filter will appear to darken cool colors like Blues and Greens and lighten warm colors like Reds and Orange.
  • Green Filter will do the opposite, darkening warm colors and lighten cool colors.
  • Yellow Filter will appear to lighten yellows to almost white and produce a subtle shift to all other colors.

Shooting RAW or saving as JPG


So what actually happens when the B&W photo is saved as Raw? Well, surprisingly all of the color information is still saved in the Raw file.  If you change your mind and want a full color photo, all you have to do is change the Picture Style in Canon’s Digital Photo Professional (DPP).  The Picture Style has NO permanent effect on a Raw file.  It simply adds an additional tag to the Raw file indicating the Picture Style which was used when the photo was taken.  You can change the Picture Style at will.  Pretty cool right!

However, if you save the photos as JPGs in the Canon 7D, all of the color information is lost.  The Canon 7D does save the images as RGB JPGs instead of Greyscale JPGs for full compatibility, but the images are monochromatic.  Even boosting the Saturation level in Photoshop will not restore the color values.

Shooting B&W is a great time to use Canon 7D’s JPG+RAW shooting function.

So why bother with the Monochrome Picture Style?

Well, the Canon 7D knows you want to shoot B&W and will display the image on the camera’s LCD as a B&W photo.  If you are on-location, it is very important to know that “you got the shot”.  B&W does take practice and it is easier to see it than try to think how it will look in Photoshop.

Adobe Camera Raw, Lightroom and Capture One ignore the Picture Style setting


It is important to note that only Canon’s DPP will read the Picture Style tag in the Canon 7D Raw file.  Adobe Camera Raw 5.6 (as shown above) along with Lightroom 3 (Beta 2) and even Capture One 5 Pro will preview the Raw file as a Thumbnail in B&W.  However, as soon as you click on the image, each program reads the Raw file and generates its own thumbnail in color and opens the image in full color.  (I was shooting in RAW+JPG for all of my B&W shots.  That’s why you see double images, both a color Raw file and a B&W JPG.)

So what did I think?

I had a ball shooting B&W.  I forgot how rewarding it can be.  More on shooting B&W to come!



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9 Replies to “Canon 7D Tips – Black & White Photography”

  1. “only Canon’s DPP will read the Picture Style tag in the Canon 7D Raw file”

    Thank you for the information that I were looking for.

  2. Happy to help. Keep in mind that if you shoot RAW, the color information is still recorded. You can easily jump between color & BW when processing photos. However, BW video is really BW video. There is no way to restore color to video once it has been recorded as BW.

  3. Hi there,

    I have just purchased a canon 7d and will be photographing an out door rodeo this weekend..any hints on the best set up for the camera would be greatly appreciated…thoroughy enjoyed your articles.

    Regards Vicki

  4. Think “action photography”. You will want to shoot is Shutter Priority mode TV and use a setting between 1/250 and 1/1000 pending on how fast they are moving to freeze the action without blurring. Depending on the light, you may need to push the ISO to allow for the faster shutter speed. If you are using Lightroom or Photoshop’s Camera Raw, you can easily push to 1600ISO and remove any trace of digital noise. Have a great time!

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