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The Secret to Great Black and White Photography

Dan Eitreim

June 17, 2015

Colour photography has now been with us 100 years yet black and white (monochrome) photography is as popular as ever and for very simple reasons unrelated to trends or nostalgia.

A colour image with strong vibrant colours will, irrespective of the subject matter grab the viewers attention and nourish and satisfy the brain with a kind of visual sugar much like a new big screen TV with nothing particular on.

Without colour the brain searches for something more.

The viewer is immediately drawn to the Shapes, textures and emotions of the picture and the absence of colour might not even be noticed.

The understated horror of the shiny black blood in Robert Capa’s American soldier lying dead from a sniper’s bullet, Ansel Adams’ seminal images of Yosemite National Park, All pictures you would expect to be in colour yet they’re all in monochrome and the best of their kind.

The raw emotion and sheer horror of Capa’s war images is unequalled, always shot from very close we can feel the risks he took, something that eventually cost him his life. In stark contrast the silent beauty of Adams’ landscapes draw the eye to the textures, tones, and shapes within the landscape. Undistracted by colour the viewer searches and sees deep into the image.

Where black and white can work for you

Photograph your children in black and white and suddenly all the distracting colourful Toys and fabrics so often present in the scene are neutralised and the child’s smile and eyes dominate the image.

I offer my family photo shoot clients proofs in both colour and monochrome, first showing the colour images, then with those safely tucked away, the black and white options. And it’s these they so often order, timeless and enduring just like the pictures Julia Margaret Cameron took almost one hundred and fifty years ago.

It’s always best to shoot in colour then remove the colour on the PC because not only do we retain the colour option but it allows us to create different styles of black and white images.

Using simple software like iPhoto, or even better Adobe Photoshop Elements we can control the conversion of the colour image into black and white. Blue skies can be adjusted to be darker to bring out clouds, street scenes can be made contrasty and gritty and portraits can be given the soft graded skin tones that work so well.

Think about the most powerful photographs of the last 50 years.

Were they in colour?

John Perkins is a working professional photographer and photography teacher. Full details at [www.phototuition.net].

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

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