Histograms break down the value of a photograph. Once you understand value you can use it to create stark contrasts or to create soft, subtle compositions. Value in the photography world really just translates to light. If you have a heavily lighted photography it is high on the value scale. If you have a low lighted photograph then it is low on the value scale.
Ansel Adams understood the dynamics of black and white photography along with other essential elements and principals of design and photography. A part of this could be that he didn’t meddle with color, since we often get distracted by color and loose the value of the composition. To truly understand composition shooting black and white photography is something you have to try as not just an “effect”, but as a teaching tool.
Tones are the most important element of black and white photography. As humans we don’t really think about the world in tonal ranges. For us when we see light blue and then we look else where and see yellow, we are in fact seeing two different colors. However, when you take a black and white photograph with light blue and yellow in the same frame, the camera may not actually communicate the difference to your viewers since the colors have almost the exact same grey tone.
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There are two reasons to shoot black and white photography. One reason is because you think it looks old fashioned and it’s a cool effect. A better reason to shoot black and white photography is because of the lessons it can teach you. Black and White Photography teaches you about values. We’re not talking about ethical values but the value in a monotone sense where color is taken out of the picture and we can focus on value as a single element.
High value is white and low value is black, you can see below a visual representation of value scale.
It’s here! ON1 Director of Product Dan Harlacher takes you on a deep-dive into the world of black and white photography. Learn how to think in black and white to compose and properly expose for this, the pinnacle of photographic expression. Then learn how to convert to black and white, control tonality, simulate film and darkroom techniques and even get the best black and white prints. Dan has been a passionate practitioner of black and white photography going back to his days in the darkroom where we was a college instructor. In this all-encompassing course you will learn everything you need to know about shooting and converting black and white using the latest modern digital technology.
Many photographers specialize in black and white photography due to its sheer power, elegance and beauty. However, it is important to note that black and white photography is not simply color photography with black and white film (or a black and white digital setting). Black and white photography has its own set of rules that it needs to abide by. Black and white photography, since it is colorless, needs to find other ways to set moods.
For great black and white photos you also must understand tonal range.
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Lesson 1IntroductionLesson 2Seeing B&WLesson 3Exposing for B&WLesson 4Camera FiltersLesson 5Digitally Converting to B&WLesson 6Controlling Tone & ContrastLesson 7Making Local AdjustmentsLesson 8Detail & TextureLesson 9Film Darkroom LooksLesson 10InfraredLesson 11Using PresetsLesson 12PrintingLesson 13Editing an Architectural PhotoLesson 14Editing a Waterfall PhotoLesson 15Studio Shoot & Edit: FloralLesson 16Studio Shoot & Edit: A Portrait
Black and white photography: Tonal range Photography complexity vs. simplicity Photography amputation Photography lighting
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Therefore as a black and white photographer you have the extra responsibility to think about how the world looks in tones. You need to think about the whiteness of whites and the darkness of darks (known as tonal range). You need to see colors as tones, and your shadows will not become more intimate parts of your photographs. Likewise, you can use colors to help draw emphasis to a subject or idea anymore, now you will need to find other ways to draw emphasis to the main subject or smaller details within the photograph.
Black and White Photography in the Digital Era (free video) Black and White Landscapes (free video)