What Subjects Are Best For Black And White Photography

January 24, 2019 5:30 am by columnblogger
Great black and white architecture pictures by photographer howard monks howard does a nice job shooting all different kinds of subject matter
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What Subjects Are Best For Black And White Photography

Not all subjects will have interesting shadows at all times of the day. Have a look at the image below. If the sun were shining directly overhead, none of the shadows would be visible, and you’d have a bright white mess. The same goes if you were to take the picture very early in the morning. Everything would be covered in shadow, and you wouldn’t be able to see anything.

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How many of you would have guessed that the object in the photo is a staircase? Without the colors to distract your vision, you don’t see the staircase as a staircase. You see it as a spiral. Black and white photography gives us the unique opportunity to see the world in a way we never usually see it. We enter a world where form takes reign over the familiarity of the objects themselves.

What other subjects have a lot of texture? You don’t have to travel very far to find them. They’re right in your home. Your kid’s sports equipment, the baseballs, footballs, and basketballs are all made of a leather that has an interesting texture. And what about the fruit in your kitchen? Oranges, raspberries, bananas, and apples each have a unique texture that can’t quite be duplicated.

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The abstract photographer in me loves black and white. Why? Because no other medium allows you to focus on the form of your subjects. Whenever you’re shooting in black and white, try to find subjects that represent geometrical shapes. You’ll be surprised with the results you get.

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In a word, yes. Black and white photography is almost a completely different artform. With the colors no longer there to take your viewer’s attention away from the tiny details, you can focus more on the form and texture in your image. Consider photographing the following subjects the next time you make the switch to black and white.

Start with raw, natural materials, like rocks, metal to give you an understanding of form and texture. Pay close attention to form, shading, pattern and tone. Take note of how the contrast creates shapes, such as lines.

These lines then create a feeling by either staying straight or bending or going away from view. Feel the impact of the shapes make a pattern. See how the texture of the subject creates the feeling and how shape with this texture gives the subject a new presence on your photo.

Look at the different shades of light work in with each other, and the relationship they have with each other, some against, some with, and how the dark aspects of light can work to enhance the photos feel.

While it can certainly take a while to train yourself to see the shapes in ordinary things, once you do, it will make your black and white photography that much more interesting. The coolest subjects tend to be the ones you’d least expect to find. There is form in everything. Black and white photography will teach you to look for it.

This post was written by Amy Renfrey from the Digital Photography Success and Landscape Photography ebooks who is filling in for me here at DPS this week.

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Outside of the home, there are flowers, water droplets, footprints, the wood grain from a tree trunk, and so much more that I can’t list it all. I’d suggest going on a long walk and looking for things that have texture. And if you’re going on a walk, you might as well bring you camera with you. Snap a few photos and let me know how it goes.

There are a lot of photographers that prefer black and white because the world changes when it is in black and white. If you really want to define a subject’s form, then switching to black and white to take that photo will emphasize all the details you miss in colour. When there is a distinct contrast, with dark shades and bright light you’ll be able to see things you didn’t really see before.

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When you’re beginning black and white photography, it’s often difficult to figure out what to photograph in the first place. You’ve seen some amazing black and white photos, but you don’t know why they’re so amazing. How can black and white enhance a subject? Are certain subjects more tailored to black and white photography than others?

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David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.

The rocks above are a great example. The entire purpose of the photo is to show the contrast between the two different rock textures. With no colors distracting you, the smoothness of the white rocks stands out in an uncanny way, and it works really well when placed next to the porous and rough texture of the black rocks.

That’s art-speak for “we see shapes, and it’s pretty darn cool.”

Black and white is particularly good if you like working with abstract. The black and white medium lends itself to abstract forms because it removes colour and in doing so shows the graphic elements of the photograph. This then gives us the opportunity to explore the subject a lot more closely and in depth.

But there is a time of day when it all comes together, and there’s just enough balance between the shadow and the sun. That’s when interesting textures start to emerge, and by switching to black and white, you can see them in more detail. It isn’t always a matter of finding subjects with interesting shadows. It’s more a matter of finding the right time of day to photograph them.

UPDATE: Learn more about Black and White Photography with our new Essential Guide to Black and White Photography.

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