Seeing in Black and White – Take better B&W pictures by learning how to see like a photo film

Sometimes a removal becomes an accrual; a subtraction an addition; a loss a gain. Such is true of black and white (B&W) photography. The loss of hue brings out qualities that were hidden or suppressed. We are distracted by color therefore B&W photos alert us that more is there than what the casual glance suggests. B&W photos are simplified in such a way as to allow us to see more. Take a look at these two photos. They are identical with the expception that one is color (RGB) and the other B&W. Would you not agree that one is seen one and the other felt? The texture of the flower is enhanced at the expense of hue.

Perhaps the best subjects for a B&W photo might be those everyday objects which we have grown too accustomed to. Those objects around us in our everyday life that we no longer see because we have grown too accustomed to them. Take a photo of your hardwood floors or shadows on the wall, sheets hanging on the clothsline or even bubbles in the dish water. Make them B&W and see them again in a different light.

Read Black and White: it’s not just for dog’s anymore to see how to use Photoshop to convert a photo to B&W.

What to look for:

First, lets talk about which photos typically make the best B&W conversions. One thing to look for are photos/compositions with a high contrast between light and dark areas. Between the areas of contrast there will either be a gentle gradient from dark to light or a sharp edge. Take a look at the photo here to the left. (Fountaina Luminosa located in L’Aquila, Italy.) It has examples of both gradients and edges between contrasted areas which work together to add a dimension that was unseen in the original color photo.

Landscapes a.k.a. Anselscapes

[lakeMary_rockNcloud-[0390].jpg]Isn’t it paradoxical that often when we think of landscapes we imagine the iridescent colors of a sunset or a meadow of wild flowers. Yet A. Adams, the most popular landscape photographer, is known for his brilliant black and whites. Clouds become more lofty. Their sun exposed surfaces gleam white and flat underbellies blackened. They combine both the soft gradients and harsh transitions to puff up into a higher dimension.

Fields of grass and flowers become more unified. The variations of color are suppressed but the overall shape of the meadow is enhanced. The ripples and flow of water become more pronounced. Mountains better defined. And lets not forget the photographer’s holy grail: godbeams. Those shafts of light, weather streaming through clouds, trees, windows, whatever, that remind us that ultimately it is light that we see and are drawn to photograph.

Write a Comment