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When you remove color the emphasis shifts to the other compositional elements of the image. These include lines, shape and texture, contrasts and tones.
This image was shot in black and white using the camera’s monochrome settting.
If the big response to the assignment is anything to go by readers of this blog LOVE black and white photography too (I’ve used a few of the images submitted in the assignment on this post to whet your appetite).
Monochromatic imagery forces you to focus on form, shape, and texture while composing. If your emphasis is on making colors work together, these elements are sometimes overlooked. With black and white, distracting colors are now translated into shades of gray that add to your image.
When you remove color, you not only isolate the different elements, you are compelled to find how they relate to each other. This helps you explore and create different ways to tell your story.
While black and white photography still has an important role in photography, please note that not all subjects translate well to this mode. Even though a strong composition is not color dependent, sometimes the power of the photo is its color. This is why it is good to know when to use black and white.
As camera technology gets better, with more emphasis on improved color ranges, why would you choose to shoot or process your images in black and white? In this article, we’ll look at five reasons why you might want to shoot or convert your images to black and white.
Since your world is in color, it is safe to say that color photography depicts reality and is more realistic. Thus, black and white photography is viewed as a rendition of reality – or how you interpret what you see.
Something about the variance of tonal ranges, rich blacks, and deep contrasts appeal to us psychologically. It creates a connection that makes you stop and pay attention to what is being presented.
You are used to seeing the world in color and there nothing is wrong with that view. Sometimes this contributes to other elements or details being lost or taken for granted. Some of the elements (highlighted before) required for a great photo include contrast, texture, lighting, shape, and form.
Even though this is lower on the list, it is one of the more common reasons why some photographers shoot in black and white. Monochromatic photography adds what is seen as a timeless quality to your images.
If you are interested in pursuing the monochromatic, look for the other elements of composition like texture, shape, form, lines, and contrast. Experiment with shooting and processing black and white images and figure out which resonates with you more.
The old “Masters” of photography shot in black and white initially, because they had no choice. Even with the advent of Kodachrome, which introduced the world to color photography, there was still a pursuance of black and white. This was because black and white was (and still is by some people) seen as photography in its the purest form.
Black and white photos seem to transcend reality and take you back to a time gone by. Historically there were color schemes that were specific to types of film or trends in digital photography that can date your image. The removal of color makes it tougher to figure out when the image was taken/produced.
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Many photographers use black and white for storytelling in travel and street photography, as well as when portraying religious or cultural activities. Monochrome in some genres connects, enhances and strengthens emotions and mood.
I have a few friends who are into Black and White photography and I asked them what it was that attracted them to it. Here are a few of their reasons for getting a little obsessed with Black and White:
Many times black and white helps you develop a different perspective from what you are used to seeing, which nurtures your photographic eye.
When you shoot for black and white, you challenge yourself to remove the distraction of color. These include color casts and differences in color temperature (ambient light sources), as well as specific colorful elements that are strong, which may reside in the background or take away from your story.
Note: If you shoot RAW format and set your camera to its version of the monochrome setting, you will see a black and white preview on the LCD when you review your images. But you will still have all the color data available in the RAW file at the post-processing stage. This gives you the best of both worlds – a quick b/w preview and ability to convert later.
UPDATE: Learn more about Black and White Photography with our new Essential Guide to Black and White Photography.
There are different schools of thought when it comes to black and white photography. Some believe it was a technical limitation of the past that you need to get over and move on. While others see it as a creative choice, that needs to be explored in great depths.
This image was shot in color and then converted to black and white in the processing stage.
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As I said yesterday in the post announcing our Black and White Assignment it seems as though Black and White images are making something of a comeback of late as digital camera owners rediscover the beauty of mono images.
One of the questions I’m being asked about more and more lately is about Black and White Digital Photography.
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No Distractions“I find that colors can be terribly distracting in some images and can take the focus away from your subject. I do portrait work and find that taking the color out of an image lets the subject speak for themselves. Its raw, it’s stripped back, it’s honest and it allows you to show the true person.” – Shane
Which do you prefer – Black and White or Color?What do you like about your preference? Have you experimented much with Black and White digital photography? Interested to hear your thoughts in comments below.
Of course the black and white vs color debate is a very personal one. For every person I ask who loves shooting mono there are others who much prefer the vibrancy of color photography.
5 Reasons Why You Might Want to Try Black and White Photography
With this in mind, it is obvious that not all images will translate well to black and white. So, look at all the elements and deduce what else you have to work with, besides color.
Variety“I find the creative process with black and white images is so… artistic. It’s like molding clay – you can shape it into a myriad of shapes. Black and White images can be strong, high contrast and powerful – or they can be so soft, gentle and subtle.” – Belle
You no longer have to imagine what your scene will look like in black and white, as current camera technology allows you to try this on the spot and see if it works. While some photographers prefer to shoot in black and white, others prefer to shoot in color and then process or convert their images to black and white to get a different or better tonal range.
Subtlety of Tones“I love the subtlety of tones that black and white images can have. In a world that often boasts about how many millions of colors a TV or monitor is able to produce – I love that in ‘Mono’ there is such a variety of what can be achieved in a photo. Black and White sounds so boring – but the fact is that there are so many shades in between – I love the challenge of bringing them all out in an image!” – Jim
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Black and White Landscapes: Weekly Photogrpahy Challenge 6 years ago
Versatility“I love that it’s a format that suits almost any type of photography. Portraits, landscapes, urban landscapes, architecture. Not only that, it’s a medium that adapts really well to all lighting situations. Whereas color photography often works best on sunny days or in brightly lit studios – low light just makes a black and white image moody.’ – Sol
When you take away color, you remove what your viewer is used to seeing. Now you are charged with finding the stronger elements in the scene and figuring out how to use them to convey what you want to depict.