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Black-and-white photography poses unique challenges; without color to guide the eye, contrast, lighting, and composition take on even more importance. Renowned photographer Harold Davis explains these elements and demonstrates the basic rules of black and white photography as well as when and how to break them. He breaks through the complexity of this photographic medium, explores opportunities for black-and-white imagery, and shows how to capitalize on every one.
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Finally, there is another strong reason for choosing black and white and this is the opportunity to increase the viewer’s experience. We are used to see in color and presenting the world in B&W pushes spectators to pause and explore the essential ingredients of the image – composition, forms, texture and the main object, without the bias that the color vision adds to the perception of the world.
“Colour is everything – Black and White is More”, by Yvette Depaepe, on 1x – Curated photography, presenting a video and some beautiful Black and White images
5.0 out of 5 starsDavis is a great photographer, an excellent technician, and a clear and humorous writer
I’ve worked with computers for 25 years. I had no interest in digital photography. I’ve been through it all before – upgrades of both software and hardware, trying to keep current on new features you probably will never need, etc.
I figured it would be the same with Photoshop and digicams…and it has been. Plus, I have a traditional darkroom and 40 years experience with film …and all my film cameras are paid for! However, I started reading Mr.
Davis’ blog. He talked about the unique possibilities with digital B&W that are much different from traditional photography. I’ve corresponded with him several times. He’s well aware that a lot of us cannot justify upgrading hardware and software every 18 months.
Thus, in many ways, his book is a reference manual. It deals with new ways to apply core functions of Photoshop, and many techniques are cross referenced in the book. I have CS2, which is about the oldest version I would use, since Mr.
Davis strongly advocates shooting in RAW and uses ACR extensively. I have been pleasantly surprised at how valuable this book has become to me in a short period of time. For example, the chart on page 68 was quite helpful to me.
With anything digital, you can “process it” for days, trying for perfection. The chart indicates levels of digital B&W. Sometimes, you may want “gallery quality;” with other shots the “quick and dirty” approach is just fine.
It’s all in this book. It’s the single best book on my type of digital photography I’ve found. It’s a wonderful book, just to browse. The printing and layout are of the highest quality, and Mr. Davis’ photos are stunning.
The techniques Mr. Davis suggests are illustrated with complete step-by-step instructions. As long as film is manufactured, that is what I will shoot. However, scanning negatives and trying out some “Photoshop Magic” is starting to make photography fun again.
If you are just beginning with Photoshop, this book will be somewhat intimidating. Still, it was all new to me, and I find it’s now an essential reference after about six months. In summary – this has been a great book for an old film guy.
If you are interested in producing wonderful digital B&W prints, this book is the one for you.
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Additionally, b&w is subconsciously associated with certain moods like melancholy, loneliness, fear, sadness, isolation etc, while the ability to push the tones to absolutely black or white helps create atmosphere and drama.
Black and White Photography Tip #5: Look for contrast. In my experience, the best black and white photos usually have some portion of the photo that is near to pure white, and some portion of the photo that is near black. This increased contrast adds interest to the scene.
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Have you ever wondered why black and white photography still exists? People, fascinated with the advances in technology and the will to present the world as we see it, have started experimenting with color photography back in the 19th century. The first commercially successful color process, the Lumière autochrome invented by the French Lumière brothers, reached the market in 1907. So why are there photographers presenting their images in Black and White, when color photography is so widely available?
This post is in response to a question from Matthew Tapley, who is interested in learning how to improve his black and white photography skills. I hope this article has information that is valuable enough to you that you’d consider sharing it on Facebook or Twitter.
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Looking at a person’s face and especially the eyes, without the distraction of the color, the viewer can connect easier with the emotional status of that person.
Attention photographers. Ever thought of making a profit on your photos. Displate might be the place.
Black and White Photography Tip #1: Shoot in RAW. Many times when I shoot for black and white, the photo just doesn’t turn out right when I finally review it on the computer. By shooting in RAW, you’ll be able to change your mind later if the photo wasn’t as great in black and white as you’d hoped.
I hope you’ll find useful the following article from my blog”
Mastering the Exposure Triangle is the key to photographic excellence. Highly illustrated and easy to follow lessons require no prior experience.
Black and White Photography Tip #11: Long exposures love black and white. I read this tip on the fantastic Digital Photography School website and decided to try it on an image that I took a few months ago. I didn’t like the picture and had almost deleted it until I read that tip and applied black and white to the photo.
Black and White Photography Tip #10: Look for patterns. Patterns are interesting because of their ordered repetition. Color merely distracts us from giving the pattern our attention. By using black and white, images of patterns are far more compelling. Once you start looking for patterns to shoot in black and white, you’ll notice them everywhere: cars in a parking lot, the shoes of a wedding party standing in line, or a row of bushes.
“Harold Davis’s Creative Photography series is a great way to start a photography library”—PhotoFidelity
Photography, in order to be successful, must reduce the scene to its essentials, discarding part of the information. This can be done with the frame selection, the composition, but also, and to a significant extent, in my opinion, by the way of removing the color information.
Black and White Photography Tip #9: Use the correct terminology: Black and white, monochrome, grayscale. “Monochrome” means that a color is placed on a neutral background. Therefore, black and white images, which put black on a white background, are a type of monochrome image. Grayscale is merely a way to show black and white images on a computer, which uses a reduced set of shades of gray.
Unlike painting, classic photography was born and grew in Black and White. The days of Henri Cartier-Bresson and other masters of photography that we admire today, are associated with black and white images and quality photography.
With the term negative space we mean the areas in the frame that lack recognizable objects, ensuring there are no distractions to deflect our attention from the main object. Black and White highlights these areas, a property that can be further emphasized with the use of strong contrast.
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4. Reducing photography to its essentials – shape, form and pattern
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Intense colors have their one dynamic, creating emotions, contrast and visual intensity that are extraneous to the essence of our object. Distancing ourselves from the colors, we remove such distractions and concentrate on the substance, allowing us to “see” and understand what we’re shooting. We start considering things like contrasting light, negative space, lines and shapes – the essential ingredients of photography.
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Black and White helps to show off the compositional elements without the distraction of color. The elements of the frame and their interrelation pop up and occupy the position they deserve.
Learn about the Sony RX10 IV with a complete guide that explains all features, controls, and menus in plain language with many color illustrations.
We see the world in color and thus reality is connected with the presence of color. Consequently, a black and white image tends to distance us from the accurate depiction of reality and transfer the viewer to a kingdom of abstraction, reducing the image to pure tones, lines and forms.
Whether you’re a professional just venturing into black and white or a serious amateur, Creative Black & White will both educate and inspire you.
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If you understand how cameras work, you will master photography much faster, make better buying decisions, and quickly adapt to any new camera.
Creative Black and White: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques $34.95 This title will be released on August 1, 2019.
A wide range of tones is essential for a successful photograph and Black and White allows for a tonality that ranges from absolute black to pure white. The same cannot be achieved in color photography, due to the resulting oversaturation and color burning.
Creative Black and White: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques 1st Edition
Pages with related products. See and discover other items: ansel adams photography, photography composition, black and white photography, digital photography books, exposure photography books
Black and White Photography Tip #14: Shoot in HDR!!! I’m actually surprised how little attention is given to black and white HDRs on the web. I am so convinced of the merit of the black and white HDR that I spent an entire chapter in my HDR eBook talking explaining how to do it. HDR is great for black and white photography because it exaggerates the dynamic range and edges. Nothing pops quite like a black and white HDR.
Black-and-White Photography Tips from Author Harold Davis Black-and-White Photography Tips Photos by Harold Davis Tips for Seeing in Black and White [PDF]
5.0 out of 5 starsInformation for those interested in monochrome at the next level
black and white harold davis white photography creative black post processing highly recommend step by step easy to understand digital photography recommend this book many ways convert color low key white digital silver efex dynamic range well written digital photographer step-by-step instructions lightroom and photoshop
In a black and white image we may miss the color information of a beautiful sunset, but on the other hand we can enjoy light better. Light and shadows are accentuated by the lack of color. Think about the strong impression of the long intense shadows or the strong silhouette of a backlit subject, greatly highlighted in monochrome images.
Black and White Photography Tip #13: Don’t get fooled. I confess to have made this mistake many times. Sometimes I have shot a photo that includes very little color. For example, a close-up of a penguin, or a night sky, or a dalmatian dog. When I see these photos in Lightroom, I often reach for the black and white tools immediately, but I am always disappointed. If the photo is practically colorblind to begin with, it probably won’t look as good in black and white as in color.
Black and White Photography Tip #8: Watch for texture. As long as texture is not front-lit, it will show contrast in fine details, which makes it a compelling subject for black and white. This is why black and white photos of old items such as barns or antiques are so compelling–they have a lot of weathered texture.
I had seen Davis’ videos on youTube, and was very impressed by him. I bought a couple of his books initially, and then several others so that I now have 9 of them. Each one, so far, is excellent–it is taking me longer than I expected to read them because there is so much information to absorb.
If you want to learn whatever the subject matter of the book is, from the concepts behind the subject (night photography, lighting, etc.) planning for the picture (e.g., the use of lightboxes to create translucent pictures), to the detailed post-processing of them in Photoshop or equivalent, you will not be disappointed–at least, I haven’t.
One of the particularly great things about this book, specifically, is that it really helped me understand what photographs are good candidates for B&W conversion, as well as how to start seeing the world in terms of light and dark tones.
As a minimalist photographer, I use every tool that promotes my pursuit. There is no doubt that the absence of color alone gives the work a more minimalist feel. But there is another feature that moves the B&W image to the same direction and this is the accentuation of the negative space.
Richly illustrated with the author’s own images, this beautiful guide presents the skills needed for great black-and-white photos while encouraging your confidence and creativity.
In other words, B&W conversion gives a timeless quality to the images and,for reasons connected to the roots and traditions of classic photography, offers a greater visual delight.
As Bresson wrote about color photography: “I am half afraid that this complex new element may tend to prejudice the achievement of the life and movement which is often caught by black and white.”
Light Science & Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
This bar-code number lets you verify that you’re getting exactly the right version or edition of a book. The 13-digit and 10-digit formats both work.
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Black and White Photography Tip #2: Give your photo some Silver Effex. Silver Effex Pro 2 is a Photoshop or Lightroom plugin that does one thing–make black and white photos look incredible. In theory, you could replicate everything that Silver Effex Pro 2 does using Photoshop, but I have to confess that I have never been able to do it. Black and whites look absolutely stunning in Silver Effex Pro 2. The program is a bit pricey, but it is worth the money if you love black and white. In fact, when I look at black and white produced by other photographers, I like to think I can tell if Silver Effex Pro 2 was used on the image. Check it out here.
Black-and-white photography poses unique challenges; without color to guide the eye, contrast, lighting and composition take on even more importance. Renowned photographer Harold Davis explains these elements and demonstrates the basic rules of black and white photography as well as when and how to break them.
He breaks through the complexity of this photographic medium, explores opportunities for black-and-white imagery and shows how to capitalize on every one.
Many practical insights on how to compose and edit black and white images. While desaturation can yield black and white images good images require much more than that starting with a good composition, proceeding by tonal and color balances before making it monochrome.
The author provides many insights on how to make interesting black and white images. For me at least Black and white while not necessarily better than color is different and just as complex.
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Maybe this is the first time in history, when despite the invention of a new technology more than a century ago, people insist on doing things the old way, at least in artistic photography. If you google “Fine art photography” you’ll find that more than 50% of the images displayed are Monochromatic. Why?
“The object of art is not to reproduce reality, but to create a reality of the same intensity” Alberto Giacometti.
As I recently noted in my review of another Black and White digital book by Michael Freeman, I am not a huge fan of the “stars” method of review. I think this is a book that is worth the price for any photographer who (like I do) likes to learn by reading and likes to “get under the hood” a little bit, and wants to work with Black and White digital processing of their images.
Much like the Freeman book, this book is divided into 3 major sections. Freeman goes into some detail about B&W photography history comparing film to digital capture. Davis, instead, uses his first section more as a “philosophy of B&W shooting” piece.
Both are well done, but different. The second two sections in both books are similar, going first into the actual process of B&W conversion and processing, and then giving some creative advice, example and perhaps motivation.
I thought the first section in Davis’ book could be thinned by about 2/3. It just seems to repeat itself, and repeat itself. But then, maybe I just don’t “get” it. He also has a tendency toward “flowery” language.
At times it may be a bit overdone, and at least for me, I found myself noticing it, instead of the straightforward information it was trying to impart. But we all speak and write our own way – and to each his own.
None of the criticism here should, in my opinion, deter a purchaser. This is a very good addition to my own library, and I learned (and will no doubt continue to learn) a lot from it.Once you get into the second section – which is really the meat of the book, the learning ramps up.
Davis does a great job – almost in a “cookbook” formula, of illustrating a number of ways to handle B&W conversion, along with the whys and hows. He gives – in most instances – a step by step explanation of how he does the processing (mostly in Photoshop) with enough information to see and accomplish the result, without getting into an “in-the-weeds” tutorial on Photoshop.
I like that. I will get, as he recommends, my Photoshop basics from other sources.I recommend this book and think it is well worth the price.
“In Defense of Black and White Photography”, by Joel Tjintjelaar, in “B&W Minimalism” magazine
Black and White Photography Tip #3: To visualize in black and white, only pay attention to lines, shadows, and shapes. This trick is very helpful to aid photographers in pre-visualizing a black and white image even though we live in a color world.
Black and White Photography Tip #4: Pay special attention to noise. With the outstanding low light performance of modern DSLR cameras, in addition to the noise removal programs at our disposal, photographers are used to getting away with noise.
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Black and White Photography Tip #12: B&W isn’t a replacement for bad lighting, but it can soften the blow. The photo of the deer on this page is an example of a photo that looked terrible in color, but which looks nice in black and white. I shot the photo at high-noon. Because I used a polarizer, I was able to cut out the reflections on the leaves and mask the fact that it was shot in terrible light.
As Robert Adams wrote “Form is beautiful … because, I think, it helps us meet our worst fear, the suspicion that life maybe chaos and that therefore our suffering is without meaning.”
Find the most beautiful black and white stock photos on this page ranging from photos of people to landscape, city and skyline photography. Scroll down and discover amazing black and white images that can also be used as desktop wallpapers. You are free to download all of these free stock photos. All photos are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license.
Black and White Photography Tip #7: Use a polarizer. When shooting around reflective surfaces such as water or leaves, use a polarizer to cut the reflections of the sun’s light. When color is removed from the photo, these specular highlights can be distracting the overall composition.
Learn all the details about your Panasonic FZ2500 camera with this complete, full-color illustrated guide to its features, menus, and operation.
Light is the essence of photography, thus every tool that stresses it and his opposite – shadows – helps to make a better image.
Robert Adams wrote: “Art like philosophy it abstracts. Art simplifies. It is never exactly equal to life. In the visual arts, this careful sorting out in favor of order is called composition, and most artists know its primacy. Art takes liberties, then, to reveal shape.”
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You can read more articles about B&W Photography on my blog: “Inspirations”
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“… the value of art lies at least largely in the value of its expression of emotion.” (Alex Neill, The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics).
When the color component of an image has been removed, the viewer can undistractedly observe the elements in the frame, the relation between them and the effect of the compositional elements – lines, shapes and forms, but also the lighting and the tones.There is a whole new world to explore – a world of forms and interconnections.
In Landscape/Nature, Post-processing by Jim HarmerMay 11, 201144 Comments
Black and White Photography Tip #6: Find a wide range of grays. Having white and black in the image will help add interest to a picture, but if other areas do not have a wide range of varying tones of gray, the photo will most likely look dull. You can achieve a a wider range of grays by using flash to throw highlights and shadows over certain areas of the photo.
Explore all the features, controls, menus, and operations of the Sony RX100 VI camera with a clearly written and fully illustrated color guide book.
Photoshop CC Essentials for Photographers: Chelsea & Tony Northrup’s Video Book
Maybe because of the influence of classic (film) black and white photography we tend to react emotionally more when we see an image in black and white. Even the chromatic noise in black and white contribute to the creation of a mood.
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Black and White Photography Tip #15: HSL is the secret sauce. The last black-and-white tip is probably the most important. When post-processing a black and white, you absolutely MUST tweak the colors in the HSL panel in Photoshop or Lightroom. An exact tutorial on how to do this would be a blog post of its own, but your black and whites will look TEN TIMES better with an HSL adjustment.
I’ll start with a quote by Ted Grant: “When you photograph people in colour, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls.” Removing the color from a portrait, allows the viewer to concentrate on the facial features and decode the person’s emotions. This quote introduces our first argument.