p52 month 06 : black & white


This month we are focusing on “seeing” light in black and white when we shoot.  Color plays an important role in how we perceive the world around us. However, color can also be terribly distracting in some images and can take the focus away from the subject. But when you decide to shoot a photograph in black and white, it drastically changes what’s in front of the lens. Taking color out of an image can let the subject speak for themselves. In portraits, landscapes and street photography for example, the photo becomes more raw and stripped down. It’s more honest and allows the true person or scene to show through without color distracting them.

Being able to ‘see’ how your final shot will look is a key skill that I am trying to work on. A few key tips I have learned to make better black and white photos is to focus on; 1) contrast shape and form: it’s important to look for subjects that feature simple, strong lines and shapes. Shadows define shape and form so it’s also important to look for areas of darkness as well as light ; 2) tone: B&W photos include a range of greys which add subtlety to images. Looking for subjects that will translate into a range of tones from black to white is advised but you can also get good results from subjects that are mostly light or dark. Try to get your subject to stand out (lighter or darker than the background). You need to look for contrast. What is perfect for a colored photograph, can often have a negative impact on a black and white landscape; 3) texture and detail: fine details (wrinkles on a very old man or woman), strong textures (foliage, clouds, antiques) and other elements (air and water) can give nice depth and interest. Strong side lighting also helps bring out textures in a subject.; 4) light, as always makes or breaks the photo and when you have light and shadows, you also have contrast and different tones. Directional light (light hitting the subject at an angle) will give your image greater depth.


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