Tadashi onishi is a talented photographer based in tokyo japan he shoots amazing cinematic and high contrast black and white urban and street photography
Tadashi onishi is a talented photographer based in tokyo japan he shoots amazing cinematic and high contrast black and white urban and street photography
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High Contrast Black And White Street Photography.

Look for Contrast, Shape and Texture. The complimentary and opposing colours that bring a colour image to life are all reduced to black and white or shades of grey in a monochrome image and you have to look for tonal contrast to make a shot stand out. In colour photography, for example, your eye would right now be drawn to a red object on a green background, but in monochrome photography these two areas are likely to have the same brightness, so the image looks flat and drab straight from the camera. fortunately , it’s possible to work adjust the brightness of these two colours singly to introduce some contrast. However, a great starting point is to look for scenes with tonal contrast. There are always exceptions, but as a general rule look for scenes that contain some strong blacks and whites. This can be achieved by the light or by the brightness (or tone) of the objects in the scene as well as the exposure settings that you use. The brightness of the bark of a silver birch tree for example, should inject some contrast (and interest) in to a woodland scene. Setting the exposure for these brighter areas also makes the shadows darker, so the highlights stand out even more. Look for shapes, patterns and textures in a scene and move around to find the greatest composition.

Take Control. Although coloured filters can still be used to manipulate contrast when shooting digital black and white images, it’s more common to save this work until the processing stage. Until a some years ago Photoshop’s Channel Mixer was the preferred means of turning colour images monochrome, but now Adobe Camera Raw has more forceful tools (in the HSL/Grayscale tab) that allow you to adjust the brightness of eight individual colours that make up the image. It’s possible to adjust one of these colours to make it anything from white to black with the sliding control. However, it’s important to keep an eye on the whole image when adjusting a particular colour as subtle gradations may become unnatural looking. And adjusting the brightness of a red or pink shirt with the red sliding control, for instance , will have an impact on the model’s skin, especially the lips. The Levels and Curves controls may also be used to manipulate tonal range and contrast, but the HSL/Grayscale controls allow you to create differentiation between objects of the same brightness but with diverse colours.

Dodge and Burn. Dodging and burning is a drive that comes from the traditional darkroom and is usually used to burn in or darken highlights and hold back (brighten) shadows. Photoshop’s Dodge and Burn tools allow a level of control that film photographers should only dream of because you can target the highlights, shadows or mid-tones with both. This means that you may use the Burn tool to darken highlights when they are too bright, or the Dodge tool to perk up them to grow local contrast. It’s a great habit of sharing a sense of superior sharpness and enhancing texture. Plus, because you should set the opacity of the tools, you could build up their effect gradually so the impact is subtle and there are no hard edges.

Use Filters. Graduated neutral density (AKA ND grad) and polarizing filters are simply as useful in monochrome photography as they are in colour. In fact, because they manipulate image contrast they are arguably more useful . An ND grad is supportive when you want to retain detail in a bright sky while a polarizing filter should be used to reduce reflections and boost contrast. Alternatively, hold taking two or more shots with diverse exposures to create a high dynamic range (HDR) composite. Don’t be anxious to use a ND grad with a standard neural density filter if the sky is brighter than the foreground in a long exposure shot. Coloured filters, which are an essential tool for monochrome film photographers, may also be useful for manipulating contrast in digital images. They work by darkening objects of his opposite colour while lightening objects of their own. An orange filter, for example, will darken the blue of the sky while a green single will lighten foliage.

Shoot RAW + JPEG. The greatest monochrome conversions are got up to by editing raw files which have the full colour information, but if you shoot raw and JPEG files simultaneously and set the camera to its monochrome picture Style/Picture Control/Film Simulation mode you get an indication of how the image will look in black and white. As numerous photographers struggle to visualise a scene in black and white, these monochrome modes are an invaluable tool that will help with composition and scene assessment. numerous cameras are also capable of producing decent in-camera monochrome images these days and it’s worth experimenting with image parameters (usually contrast, sharpness, filter effects and toning) to find a look that you like. Because compact habit cameras and compact cameras show the scene seen by the sensor with camera settings applied, users of these cameras are able to preview the monochrome image in the electronic viewfinder or on rear screen before taking the shot. DSLR users may also do this if they activate his camera’s live mental picture habit , but the usually slower responses mean that many will find it preferable or check the image on the screen post-capture.

Try Long Exposure. Long exposure shots could work really well in monochrome photography, especially where there’s moving water or clouds. During the exposure the highlights of the water, for example, are recorded across a wider area than they would with a short exposure and this could help enhance tonal contrast. The blurring of the movement also adds textural contrast with any solid objects in the frame. If compulsory , use a neutral density filter such as Lee Filters’ Big Stopper or Little Stopper to decrease exposure and extend shutter speed (by 10 and 4 stops respectively). classically , when exposures extend beyond with regard to 1/60 sec a tripod is required to keep the camera still and avoid blurring. It’s also advisable to use a remote release and mirror lock-up to minimise vibration and produce super-sharp images.

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If you’d like to keep up with Merjan and his work, you can do so by checking out his Behance profile or giving him a follow on Twitter and Flickr.

Converting to black and white in post is the first step in my workflow for this kind of image. I then tweak the tones from there. Post processing usually means playing with the contrast, highlights, shadows, blacks and whites sliders to get the look that you want. Don’t forget to straighten your images and check the edges of the frame carefully – small slithers of light or dark can really draw the eye where you do not want it to go when going for a high contrast look.

Of course, shooting in the middle of the day is also a great way of using the harsh light to create high contrast images – there won’t be prominent shadows but there will be plenty of contrast and hard edges that you can work with in post production to achieve the look that you want.

Image credits: Photographs by Mahmoud Merjan and used in accordance with Creative Commons licensing

Search out reflections for symmetry in shop windows | Haymarket, 2015

Oftentimes it’s the simplest elements that make or break a photograph, setting it apart from the rest for either better or worse. Today, we have for you a case of the former in this striking series of black and white street photos by photographer Mahmoud Merjan.

In Art of Tags shadows, contrast, Street Photography, light, silhouettes

Black and white high contrast images work well with geometric shapes, clean hard edges and clearly defined contrasting areas.  Geometric shapes can form graphic silhouettes, and can provide a ‘frame within a frame’ for your subjects.  They also work well with contrasting tones, leave interesting shadows that mirror shapes and objects and provide juxtaposition in a scene that draws the attention of your viewer. Geometric structures also tend to leave really interesting shadows which can look other-worldly in high contrast black and white.  Similarly, geometric patterns can work well in this style and add visual drama to an image.

Long shadows caused by the sun or light source coming in from an angle will elongate shadows and add them as ‘characters’ to a scene. If you are looking for this, going out in the morning or afternoon when the sun is at a low angle usually works best for high contrast black and whites.  In urban areas this does not necessarily mean sunrise or sunset as the sun may be too low to make it over buildings and other structures.  Light during this time tends to be too diffused to make crisp shadows.  I prefer winter light for these types of images as the sun tends to stay low all day, even around midday, which is often the only time I get to hit the streets (Bonus tip: forego the sandwich and use your lunch hour to shoot!). 

By blowing out the highlights in an already very bright scene, you focus a viewers attention where you want it | Barangaroo, 2015

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Tags: behance, blackandwhite, contrast, mahmoudmerjan, perfectstrangers, street, streetphotography

One of my favourite themes to shoot is scenes with high contrast shadows and silhouettes, in black and white.  I have been shooting these types of images since I discovered the amazing work of Sydney street photographer Markus Anderson, who has shot a whole series of photos in this style (search ‘rage against the light’).  I’m also inspired by the work of the late and great Fan Ho, who also utilised this look on many of his images.  I encourage you to check these photographers out.  In the meantime, here are some tips on making high contrast street photographs, based on what I have learned so far.

I’ve written previously on the blog about shooting with intent – that is, heading out with a theme in mind and shooting images that match that theme. This provides a focus and a goal for your photography, and starts to create a body of work that perhaps one day could become an exhibition, photo story, book or a series of prints on your wall. 

These Beautiful, High-Contrast, Black & White Street Photos are a Testament to Great Composition

Understanding how to work with backlighting in order to create dark silhouttes of the shapes and subjects in your image is also important.  Stand facing the light, expose for the highlights and let the elements in shade underexpose, and use these in your composition.  If you are facing direct sun, you can block it behind an element in your scene to minimise blowing out the bright tones (highlights) completely. 

The photographs — part of an ongoing project Merjan has dubbed Perfect Strangers — use minimal, yet powerful compositions and stark contrast to bring out the beauty in the everyday objects and people we might not look twice at:

That’s it for my thoughts on an approach to shooting high contrast black and white images in street photography.  Do you have any questions or thoughts? Please be sure to leave me a comment below so I can add to and improve this post!

How to shoot high contrast black and white Street Photography

Decluttering a scene lets the shapes created by the shadows and silhouettes take centre stage in the image.  Using careful framing, seeking locations that are not too crowded, and always trying to reduce the elements in the frame to only the minimum required, can help create a high contrast image that is bold, striking and is immediately interesting to your viewers.  Assess your frame and look for elements that can be removed whilst still leaving you with a photograph that works. 

As the scene you are shooting will have lots of dark and light areas that are contrasting with each other, decisions about exposure can be tricky.  Exposing for the highlights in the scene to retain as much detail as possible is a good approach – let the blacks go black. Depending on the scene and circumstances the easiest and fastest way to do this is in Aperture Priority (Av, A) mode, using the exposure compensation dial to quickly get the right balance of light and dark tones.  Alternatively accentuating highlights can also create high contrast images with punch.  It does depend on the scene though – it is worth making many frames and assessing the results back at the computer. 

As well as accentuating geometric shape,  high contrast black and white also works with symmetry.  Symmetry can be found in many different guises on the street. Symmetry works well when it is the focus of an image, so try to draw attention to it in the frame.  When the angle of light is low, shadows appear long and symmetrical to the object that is casting them, allowing for interesting plays on form and turning everyday objects into unique shapes.  Symmetry can also be found in reflections.  Look for these in shopfronts, polished stone buildings, wet pavement and glass structures to add interest to your images.

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