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Creative Black & White: Is it Black & White or is it Monochrome?

by Joe Farace

Monochrome describes photographs that use one color or shades of one color, while images using only shades of grey are called grayscale or black-and-white. One of the reasons that photographic purists sometimes refer to black and white prints as “monochrome” is it’s a more precise term that also covers images made using sepia and other tones. 

There’s more to black and white photography than an absence of color. Maybe we wouldn’t feel this way if the first photographs had been made in color but that didn’t happen and I grew up admiring the works of W. Eugene Smith and Ansel Adams and others who photographed the world in glorious black and white.

Using black and white for landscape photography simplifies the image allowing you to place the viewer’s focus where you want. In color, this tree could be lost in the cacophony of color from the canyon in the background. You can shoot this image using your camera’s built-in monochrome mode, which captures these images as an RGB file. It’s a color file without any color!

Tip: I suggest shooting in RAW+JPEG so you end up with two files: one black and white and one color, in case you change your mind later.

In traditional film photography, toning is a chemical process carried out in the wet darkroom. Some digital cameras have monochrome modes with toning options or you can do it from an original color image using software, such as Macphun’s Tonality, no smelly chemicals required.

Blue is a cool color so it’s a good choice for an image of a one-room schoolhouse photographed in the snow but darker blues can be used, with underexposure to create the kind of ‘day-for-night’ effect that originated in the movies. 


In the 1880s, brown-toned photographs were produced by adding a pigment, called sepia, made from the Sepia officinalis cuttlefish found in the English channel. Today you can shoot it directly in-camera or use software to add what most people think of a vintage effect, as was with these old cars.

As a creative medium, traditionalists may still call it “monochrome” and digital imagers may prefer “grayscale,” but, to paraphrase Billy Joel, “it’s still black and white to me.”


Last month, just before Tonality was officially launched, the Macphun team went on the road to show off our latest “baby” to members of the press and some of our Pro photographer friends in San Francisco, Tampa and New York.  

It was a whirlwind 5 day trip across the USA, but rewarding in so many ways! At the beginning of the week in San Francisco, we were joined by the incomparable Karen Hutton at RayKo Photo Center for an inspiring talk about “finding your own signature” and how Tonality can help make that happen.  

At the end of the week in Tampa, creative guru and Pro photographer Alan Shapiro and Macphun’s own Dan Hughes showed Tonality to Matt Kloskowski for his popular “Photography Tips & Tricks” show.  Watch the Product Snapshot here.

Sandwiched in the middle, we found ourselves at Peter Hurley’s studio in the Chelsea area of New York City.  Since we were at a studio, Alan came up with the brilliant idea to shoot all the attendees with a pair of 6 foot, 5 inch ANGEL WINGS strapped to their back!  

It turned out to be one of the most fun, most memorable parts of the trip. Here are a few images from that session for your visual enjoyment.

It’s what we call #flymacphun - take your images to a higher level.  If you share any of your Macphun images online, please use that hashtag! 

We’re working on some additional videos documenting the trip, so stay tuned to this space.




Andy Marcus -

Phillip Van Nostrand -

Macphun launches Tonality, new app for epic black and white images


© Piet Van Den Eynde

Today we’re so excited to share the news that our latest app, Tonality, has finally shipped. In development for nearly a year, it is designed to solve unique challenges that crafting high quality black and white photographic images presents.

Designed for photographers of all skill and interest level—from the casual snapshot fan to the working professional — Tonality provide incredible presets and controls for creating truly memorable monochrome images. 


© Alan Shapiro

The standard version of Tonality will be introduced at $24.99 in the Mac App Store while Tonality Pro will retail starting at $69.99 from our website.

Why it’s different: Tonality supports 16-bit RAW images and includes a complete set of darkroom-inspired features. Over 150 one-click Presets, stackable Layers, organic-style Texture Overlays, Adaptive tuning controls, Brushes, Social Sharing and more make Tonality stand out from other black and white apps.  


© Charles Glatzer

Pro photographer Charles Glatzer loved it’s versatility and said, “Tonality is in a league all its own.”  Karen Hutton said Tonality “…made my creative muse jump for joy!” while Pro photographer and instructor Rick Sammon loved that it helped him “…take my monochromatic images to a whole new level.”

Want to know more?

Check out Tonality today and get inspired to re-discover black and white. See more images that you’ll love below.


© Dan Hughes


© Alex Tsepko


© Laurie Rubin


© Karen Hutton


Shutter Speed Uses & Tips!

The faster the shutter speed is the less time light has to hit the sensor. This means that less time is actually recorded in the photograph. For fast moving shots a faster shutter speed will leave less blur.

Longer shutter speeds are used to create blur or paint with light. Shorter shutter speeds are used for fast moving photography such as sports photography, and sometimes nature photography.  

Here’s a handy guide:

  • 1/4000th of a second: Freeze a fast moving object in the moment. It’s good for waterfalls, splashes. Anything that is moving FAST.
  • 1/2000th of a second: Great for getting pictures of flying birds, especially fast moving ones.
  • 1/1000th of a second: Use this speed to freeze moving vehicles at high speeds, which will not show the speed.
  • 1/500th of a second: Great for action and sports shots. Pictures that involve running, jumping riding, throwing, etc.
  • 1/250th of a second: Shoot moving objects that are moving somewhat slow. For example, people or animals who are walking.

One Year Anniversary of Macphun in Del Mar!


This month we are celebrating the 1 year anniversary of Macphun in Del Mar, California! The last 365 days have been exciting and challenging, but most of all rewarding. It seems fitting to chronicle some of the major events in the timeline, so here goes!

Product Releases:

The past year has seen the launch of Snapheal Pro, Intensify & Intensify Pro, Focus 2 & Focus 2 Pro, and Lost Photos (our app that lets you re-discover images forgotten in your email inbox!). These releases have earned positive reviews and even awards like the 2013 Best of Mac App Store honor for Intensify! We’ve also integrated even more Mavericks OS X features, printing options with MILK Books and image export to SmugMug (among others) to ensure you have the best experience.


Each of these releases requires a tremendous amount of work from the entire team to make sure your experience with our products is awesome. From engineering and QA, to marketing, sales, education and support, we’re dedicated to helping you get the most out of our apps.

Spreading the Word:

We’ve had a lot of fun this year telling the world about Macphun. We’ve released each of our Pro products on fabulous high-speed memory cards (the same ones that work in your camera!), established two new international distributors, attended scores of photographic events and Mac user groups, re-dedicated ourselves to connecting with you on social networks and began introducing Pro photographers to Macphun products. The enthusiasm we’ve received back has been really gratifying, moving us and energizing us - thank you so much!


Commitment to Education:  

One of the earliest moves we made once opening up the U.S. office was to begin daily educational webinars.  These are designed to help people considering Macphun products, plus make sure that anyone who owns our products has the opportunity to learn how to fully use them. Our webinars are taught by professional photographers like Lance Sullivan, John Arnold, Dan Hughes and Laurie Rubin, as well as many others.  Be sure to stay in tune with our latest efforts at

The Future:

We are continuing to develop super-useful and innovative photo software products for you and can promise you at least 2 more apps this year that will be “game changers!”  

Macphun Software is growing every day thanks to loyal friends like you and we are really excited about what the next year may hold — may the next year be just as exciting as the last year!

Re-discovering Summer: Summer Means it’s Racing Season

By Joe Farace

I often get questions about photographing race cars and while most of those questions are about capturing on-the-track action, that’s only part of the deal. The part we don’t often talk about is safety when around 200mph cars. Some of this advice may seem obvious but if you follow these tips, I’ll guarantee it will result in better images because there won’t be any distractions.

Park your vehicle in a designated parking spot in a designated parking lot. The last thing you want to hear when getting ready to photograph a championship race is the announcer calling, “Will the owner of the orange Gremlin, please move your car or be towed!”

Shot with Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN and 75-300mm lens (at 265mm) with an exposure of 1/800 sec at f/8 and ISO 200. © Joe Farace

You’ll need to work with the track’s press office to get full access at race tracks. Tip: it helps to have some kind of assignment, even if it’s for your blog. While photographing head-to-head drag racing is fun, I can’t resist shooting burnouts like this. 

When making photographs, remain behind safety barriers and while these barriers may not be everywhere, especially on a sprawling road course, use your judgment. If you’re not sure about your location, a safety worker will shortly arrive asking you to move. If they do, be nice to them; they have a tough enough job without having to cope with whiny photographers.

© Joe Farace

Road racing circuits, like Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, often have barriers with “shoot through” holes so accredited photographers can shoot on-track action. These spaces usually provide good camera angles but are designed for the shooter’s safety first. 

Shot using a Canon EOS Rebel using an EF 70-200mm lens (at 200mm) and a Shutter Priority exposure of 1/250 sec at f/22 and ISO 200. © Joe Farace

You don’t need an expensive camera—an American LeMans Series race car, shot from behind a barrier (not unlike that on the other side of the track) 

It may or may not be hot at the track but it surely will be loud. Be sure to bring earplugs. Most tracks’ concession stands sell earplugs and keep several pair in your camera bag because they’re easy to lose but inexpensive to replace.

While in the pit area be alert. There will be many scooters, 4-wheelers, motorcycles, or golf carts transporting people around. Pay attention to cars getting ready to enter a staging area. Race cars don’t have horns like the family jalopy.

Note: As with most professional sports, you’re only allowed to make video or still images of the vehicles for personal use and they may not be sold or marketed without arrangement from the speedway and/or the sanctioning body.

Inspiration and More Practice

By Joe Farace

As the old joke goes, practice is how you get to Carnegie Hall. Pianists have to practice their scales every day and photographers need to practice capturing the correct exposure. Under tricky lighting conditions, sometimes the best solution is to shoot a series of frames varying your exposures from what would be considered underexposure to overexposure. The technique is called “bracketing” and some cameras even have an automatic bracket option.

Bracketing is a time honored photo technique in which multiple images of the same—difficult to expose properly—subject are made at different exposure levels. The idea is that one of them will be best and some others may be acceptable.

This is what a typical auto bracket menu item looks like and clicking the control (it varies from camera to camera so check your user’s guide) lets you set bracketing parameters. Some cameras even let you change the order in which the exposures are made from  – 0 + for traditionalists and my personal favorite or + 0 – with variations on that theme.

When using most cameras Auto Bracket mode the first frame is exposed at what would be considered the “normal” exposure, the second is underexposed by a predetermined amount and the third is overexposed by the same amount. Typically the amount is in fractions of a stop but in extreme examples, full stops can be used too.

Here is a bracketed series of three exposures made in the classic order of underexposed, normal and overexposed. I typically make an exposure using whatever manual or automatic mode I think is correct for the situation and adjust exposure compensation accordingly but when in doubt do what photographers have done since the invention of 35mm film—bracket.

Because the LCD preview screen on most digital cameras can exaggerate an image’s contrast it’s easy to get what you think is a well-exposed image but it’s actually slightly underexposed. By practicing bracketing you will gradually learn how to evaluate the image on your LCD screen and be make the proper adjustments.

As I mentioned in my last post, this occurs during Phase 3 when a photographer is developing their technical skills.

Limited edition of Creative Kit Plus ($260 worth of tools for $99.99)

One Step to Unlimited Possibilities

Summer is our most favorite season here at Macphun and the beginning of the season is especially awesome. With all that time ahead of us at the start of the season, there are so many possibilities ahead. Getting outdoors, being with friends, trying new things, improving ourselves and — yes — even taking a few photos!

It’s in this spirit that we put our heads together to come up a bundle of photo goodies so terrific we had to call it “Unlimited Possibilities!” 

For the next 12 days, anyone who buys our incredible Creative Kit Plus at regular price will also receive a ViewBug Premium membership and a FREE copy of the next killer app we will release later this summer!  That’s $260 worth of value for just $99.99! 

Hurry, offer ends June 22, 2014. Free app limited to first 500 buyers. Check what you are getting…

Read More

Update: Focus 2 Pro now includes MILK printing services

We’re excited to announce our partnership with MILK Books, one of the world’s premier printers! MILK now provides a print service through Focus 2 and Focus 2 Pro and soon our other software will feature the ability to print high quality products right from within the interface, right while you’re working on your images.

Our goal is to provide great products at a super-high quality to Macphun users through appealing postcards, notecards, framed gallery prints and wrapped canvas prints. Photographers can now bring their finished images in Focus 2 to life with a few clicks.

There’s just something nostalgic and classic about holding your own beautifully created images in your hands and sharing it with your family and friends that we want to bring back!

The MILK print services option allows users to create, order and purchase printed products featuring their own unique photography. A variety of products are available in Focus 2, including:

  • Postcards (pack of 12)
  • Portrait Folded Notecards w/ White Border (pack of 12 w/envelopes)
  • Wrapped Canvas Prints
  • Landscape or Portrait Art Prints, shipped in Black or White Gallery Frames

The update to Focus 2 that contains MILK print services is available today, free of charge to current owners of the product. To get the update for Focus 2, launch the App Store on your Mac and update it.  If you own Focus 2 Pro, simply choose “Check for Updates” in the Focus 2 Pro menu.

Inspiration and Practice: Practice, Practice, Practice


The biggest inspiration for my personal photography is the movies. One of my earliest available light portraits was an homage to François Truffaut’s 1971 film Two English Girls

by Joe Farace

While refining their skills I believe most photographers progress through three phases and if you understand them it’ll help improve your expertise. Phase one occurs just after purchasing their first “good” camera and discover photography’s potential for fun and creativity. During this time, novice shooters fearlessly and enthusiastically explore their world and every memory card is filled with files containing images that look so much better than they could have imagined. See Phase one image 1 above.

This blissful period doesn’t last long and is quickly replaced by the next one. During Phase two, the photographer’s level of enthusiasm is high but becomes diminished when reviewing recent images only to discover that these new photographs are so much worse than they expected.

What was I thinking? A beautiful subject, nice background and this is the best image I made? I often ask portrait subjects to run their fingers though their hair and this is what she did. I didn’t refine the pose and hoped for Phase 1 magic to occur. It didn’t.

Unfortunately, this second phase can last a long time but as the shooter improves by reading how-to books, magazines, and blogs like this, while practicing the art and craft of photography eventually they reach the final phase where the images in their viewfinder and capture are exactly what they expected. There are no surprises.


I love Oldsmobiles, especially classics ones like this that I photographed with an Olympus E-P3. It was just what I expected, including punching up the tonality by applying the in-camera Dramatic Tone Art Filter.

The biggest challenge during this last phase is that a photographer can sometimes end up shooting the same image over and over for years. So it’s up to you to break free from your comfort zone and do something—anything—to make sure this doesn’t happen. Practice.