Tag Archives: Black & white

Rare black and white pictures – great examples

Rare historical pictures in black and white

• Rare historical pictures in black and white •
Great pictures go beyond the capturing of great events…
These are excellent examples of monochrome photography too.
[Image from the slide presentation]

Quality black and white photography is an art.

Early photography taught us there is more to an image than conveyed by colour. Black and white Photography can be emotionally powerful and visually satisfying. Sometimes colour reduces that impact.

Why is there so much impact in black and white?

The use of colour has seduced the eyes of the users of modern media and screens. The realism is amazing and the quality excellent. What people forget is that colour can reduce your awareness to the meaning in a picture. It is all too easy to lose the impact of a story when the picture is so vivid.

The underlying impact of an image is more powerful with simple presentation. Black and white or monochrome images simplify the message beautifully. They create a stark reality in an image. That reduces distractions and focusses the eye on the story.

This is a great lesson for modern photographers. Reduce the image down to a simple, powerful message. Make sure it also has great visual impact. Add a great story and you have captured the attention of the viewer.

What makes black and white visually powerful?

Here are some things to consider when thinking about making a black and white image…

  • Try to use a wide contrast range from darkest blacks to whitest whites.
  • Make sure that the darkest and brightest areas of the picture are not too large or they will distract from the greyscale in between.
  • Try to ensure there is a good spread of different greys between the darkest and brightest.
  • Using only deepest black or whitest white will tend to be too harsh for the eye except where there is a good pattern for the eye to follow.
  • Harsh shadows from hard light will distract the eye. Look to use soft light and graduated shadows.
  • Try to include as much detail as possible to bring out the subject of the image.
  • Work hard to bring out textures. This will throw up the subject without distracting the eye. It will help develop depth too.
  • Be especially sensitive to layers in the image (foreground, mid-ground and distance). Low levels of texture and poor layering will make the image look flat and lifeless.
Some great examples of successful black and white images

As you go through the great images in the slide show below consider the points above. You will find food for thought for your own black and white images.

Want to see regular historical black and white images?

As a lover of black and white pictures I signed up to Retronaut  External link - opens new tab/page. This great site is not exclusively about black and white images, but most of the historical material there is of that type. I get a daily email with some great images. It’s pretty instructive because black and white images are a personal interest. Why not give it a try? Enjoy.

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Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is managing editor of Photokonnexion.com with professional experience in photography, writing, image libraries, and computing. He is also an experienced, webmaster and a trained teacher. Damon runs regular training for digital photographers who are just starting out.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’
By Damon Guy :: Profile on Google+

Ansel Adams – Master Photographer

Ansel Adams Video

• Ansel Adams BBC Master Photographers (1983 •
Ansel Adams speaks about his photography and his development.
Picture taken from the video.

Exquisite insights to a legend.

The videos I show are usually for you to quickly watch and learn. This one’s different. It’s longer (34 mins.). And, there is so much in it that you will want to watch it over and over again. The wonderful insights run deep and some show us how much photography has changed.

Ansel Adams’ ideas, photographic insights and depth of feeling is magnetic. He was probably one of the first philosophers of photography. He was one of the undoubted masters too. I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did.

Ansel Adams – “BBC Master Photographers” (1983)

Uploaded by: Rob Hooley External link - opens new tab/page

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Cliché in photography – are you guilty and what to do about it

• Hat Selective •

• Hat Selective •
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Hat Selective By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page
It is one of the things we have a go at… selective colour. But, is it really effective?

Clichés are fun but can blow your credibility.

Everyone wants to try some well tried ideas in photography. They help you learn the basics with great examples. Beware, some things have been done so often they are clichéd. It is not wrong to do them. It might be right to keep them to yourself in some situations. Here is some advice about cliché in photography.

Advice

Caring, sharing websites around the web help you get honest, fun and supportive comments made. They are great places where learners can safely post clichés and enjoy doing it. In fact it is a good thing to do. You learn by doing the photos that other people have done, and by example. You get the obvious shots out of your system then move on to more creative photography.

Developing photographers cultivate observational skill helping them get past the cliché. I think the lifetime challenge for a #photographer is to see what everyone else failed to see and were amazed they missed. Work to get past the cliché and publish the inspirational.

Photographs create the beautiful and – over generations of picture-taking – use it up. Certain glories of nature… have been all but abandoned to the indefatigable attentions of amateur camera buffs. The image-surfeited are likely to find sunsets corny; they now look, alas, too much like photographs.
Susan Sontag, “On Photography”, London, 1979

In a competition once I heard a judge say… “Ah, N – A – B – S – S!”. He didn’t say what he meant until he encountered the third sunset that evening. Several audience hands shot up to ask. He recounted the story of a judges seminar. They had seen so many sunsets the acronym stuck for “Not Another Bl..dy Sun Set! Taking a sunsets for the sake of it is not an achievement. It is a disappointment – unless something inspirational is included. Sunsets should set the scene, not be the scene.

If you publish a cliché on some websites, or in a personal gallery, you had better watch out for your credibility ratings. What else should we cut out from our online portfolio?

What are these clichés?

Bathroom mirror selfies: Doing “selfies” is fun. They’re examples of things we need to purge from our system. Lets face it most bathroom selfies are boring – of interest mostly to the person making them. Consider doing a mirror selfie in a truly palatial rest room (try the Palace of Versailles, Paris  External link - opens new tab/page).
Selective colour: I happen to enjoy some of these. But really, most of them are out of context. It is fine with a clear artistic point. Quite often there is not.
Black and white (B&W): Making a picture B&W does not make it artsy. A naff picture remains naff when converted to B&W. There are some well documented, excellent reasons to use B&W. It can ruin a shot, or doesn’t add anything. Use the technique. I love a contrasty B&W capture. However, make sure it works before publishing. The long history of B&W photos in street photography make a modern B&W look clichéd if done only for effect. It is NOT a “street photography” shot just because it lacks colour. There should be something else there that justifies that approach.
Flower: Your prize bloom is of extreme interest to you and your family. Most other people have seen stunning photos of blooms in magnificent gardens or with exquisite photography. These are the ones that capture the eye. If you have a truly inspired view of your blooms and a top technique, then publish.
“Perspective shots” in tourist spots: We have all seen them – pinch the Eiffel Tower between two fingers, Kiss the Sphinx, catch the sun between your hands; hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa  External link - opens new tab/page. These are fun. We should all have one in the home album. Online they are definitely a cliché.
Fake lens flare: Flare is great when used to good artistic effect. Faux flare is just a disaster and easily spotted. Do it right with a proper shot or not at all.
Vintage iPhone apps: They’re not great because everyone else does them. Several years ago they were fun and different. Now, I think “Phone apps” look tired and frankly embarrassing. Over done or what!
Naff borders: Powerful borders filled with character, exotic flushes or effects make strong statements. If your picture needs that then it’s probably lacking in some way. Don’t publish it.
Over-saturated HDR: HDR has been vastly overdone. We are beginning to see HDR photographs that are not super-saturated, heavily rimmed and tonally wrecked. That’s good. HDR is a post-processing technique that is beginning to mature. If you use HDR, try it as it should be used, to enhance contrast depth. If you really notice HDR – it has been over cooked!
Your car on holiday: After 1000 pictures of the Grand Canyon the vista is not improved by the presence of your car in the last shot. Great shot for the hard drive. Not one to publish.
Fake gang signs, peace signs, bunny ears and naughty middle fingers: These have been over done. If you find them funny keep them to yourself. Remember, employers often use social network sites to check on prospective employees. Do you want a potential boss checking out your gangster signs and middle fingers shots!
Duck face: The average snapper gets quite a few of these. The silly poser with the pouting smackeroonie kiss lips! Just not good photography.
Making heart-shaped hands at sunset, weddings, engagements: These are usually just embarrassing. If you feel an occasion is romantic there are a multitude of soft focus, colour casts and posing angles that do the job so much better. There are a few other wedding clichés too…

  • Brides garter around the grooms head.
  • Posing to cut your partners throat with the cake knife.
  • Selective colour on confetti, wedding cakes, brides shoes etc.
  • “Bloke shots” – doing silly things in lines, with beer and mock genitals etc.

A few years ago there were thousands of shots of rings standing upright in open books. The ring casts a shadow heart-shape. They are good in the right place – the wedding ring ceremony. Certainly learn about the light/shadow relationship and have a go at a classic. Otherwise it’s an idea with a limited time and place. For examples: Google Image Search = Heart Ring Book  External link - opens new tab/page.

It is not just the amateur

Professional photographers are guilty of creating cliché in their work too. Take two minutes to enjoy this video poking fun at “Stock” photographers.

The Clichéd Stock Photo Song


GerritAndKit

Inspirational is good.

Are there any more of these cliché shots? Yes, hundreds… some websites are filled with nothing but these types of shots. So how do you avoid the mistake?

The cliché is something we can all spot – we’ve seen it so often it’s tiresome. Quietly have a go at the techniques – learn – move on. Don’t infest your online gallery with it. Cliché tends to come and go. In 20 or 30 years the retro effect will re-birth today’s cliches! That’s the time to release ones safely stored on the hard drive.

Your time as a photographer is best spent looking for inspirational images and developing a unique communication with your viewers. You will learn more by ignoring the cliché and working on your unique vision of the world.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Eight ways to bring out texture in your photographs

• Medieval Prison •  Bring out the texture in your shots

• Medieval Prison •
A dismal dungeon! Bring out the texture in your shots.
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• Medieval Prison • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Texture is essential for a 3D effect.

If you want a realistic feel you need to work at it. Convincing texture lies in the fine detail – your picture must look like it feels. Here are eight things you can do to increase the texture from capture to printing…

What is texture?

Texture is the fine detail in your photograph. I am sure you would know what it feels like to run your finger over the surface of a brick. If a photograph of a brick convinces you that touching the photograph would feel like a brick, your depiction of texture has been successful. The term texture is a fine art concept which applies to photography [texture definition].

More after this…

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Eight ways to enhance texture
  1. Pick your subject to ensure it will show texture. Close ups are easiest as you can work large. If you are with a large subject like a person and want to show fine texture on the background you should ensure the background surface you pick is well defined. Look for the largest contrast in shades of colour and in light/dark. Look for shadow areas and bright areas. Make sure that the physical texture (roughness) is roughest where you will be taking the shot. These are the features of texture the camera will pick up.
  2. Hard light on your texture will give it a sharp, unyielding feel, a sandpaper type effect. Soft light will give it a rounded less harsh look, more like weathered stone surfaces. Arrange your light to emphasis the character of the texture you are photographing.
  3. When taking your photograph arrange the light coming at your texture from the side. A shallow angle of light creates light/shadow areas which define the texture. When these little contrasts can be seen they make the texture stand out. If light comes from where you are shooting from these shadows are not created and the texture will be flat (eg. pop-up flash or sun from behind you).
  4. Consider very slightly over-exposing your shot. This will give you room to exaggerate the contrast in the post processing.
  5. In the developing module of your processing (RAW only) use the contrast tool to maximise the contrast potential in your texture. If working in *.jpg enhance the contrast in the normal picture editing view.
  6. Consider making your picture a grey-scale shot in post processing. If possible do not do a direct colour to black & white conversion. Use colour control methods to enhance the contrasts in each colour. You will need a more advanced image editing application for this (PhotoShop, or Elements for example).
  7. Use the ‘burn’ in post processing to deepen the dark areas of the shot. Set it to emphasis shadow. Manually pick out the shadow/darker areas and give them a very slight darkening. Try working at about 10% (or less) ‘burn’ exposure. Similarly, use the ‘dodge’ tool to brighten the highlights. Set the tool to pick out highlights at about 8%-18% exposure.
  8. When printing use paper that has a texture appropriate to the texture you want to bring out. You will need to print a test print. Then hold the test texture up against several paper surfaces to compare the textures. Paper with softer, uneven texture will take the edge off textures in the print. Harder textures with more regular surface will tend to sharpen the depicted texture. However, the eye must be your final guide. There is great skill involved in picking the right paper texture for specific pictures when printing. So you might need to make several tests with different paper textures to get the most emphasis for your texture.

Enhancing the contrast between light and dark or between colours will emphasis texture, but the most effective impact will be what you achieve in the actual shot. Try to ensure you use the light to gain the best advantage from your texture as you do the shooting. It will look more realistic and you will have to spend less time at the computer.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Can you write? Of course you can!
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Black and white is fun – try monochrome

Reflection of a girl in a shop window

Reflection of a girl in a shop window. There is more to monochrome than black and white photography. Single colours are a great way to express yourself.

Give your shots a new dimension.

There is something exciting about black and white. The use of one tonal range gives a simplicity that is a new dimension. You can do the same working with one colour other than grey.

In “Don’t photograph in black and white” I said it is better to take a shot in colour with black and white processing in mind. Well, it need not be just black and white. Some photos work really well in other monochrome colour tones. There are several ways you can do it and I am going to set out some ideas for you to try.

Getting the shot

There are many ways you can get a monochrome shot in camera…

  • Find a monochrome subject. My shot above is an example. This girls face reflected off a shop window. The predominant cobalt blues in the shop display created a perfect monochrome reflection in blue. I fired off an opportune shot! So look for situations where you can pick up a monochrome appearance. Reflections are a great opportunity.
  • Filters. There are an amazing range of photographic filters on the market. There is a whole range of colours. Using these you can colour your image as you take it – strong filters will impart a monochrome overall. You will need to experiment however, filters change the nature of the light entering your camera. You might get some surprising results!
  • Gels. Photographic gels are coloured material that colour light. You can, if you stretch it tight, put thinner gels over the front of your lens. This will colour the light as it enters the camera. Try to make sure there are no wrinkles or you will get dark lines across your shot. Although, you might artfully arrange wrinkles to give your shot a unique texture as well as colour. If you use gels you might need some strong lights, hard light is best. Gels tend to be quite colour saturated. So they need the subject to be brightly lit so you see details. Its all part of the fun!
  • Coloured light. Using gels you can also light the scene with a strong colour. Deep red, blue or green gels make some really erie colours and impart some interesting shadows. If you use your gels in conjuction with strong house-lights the colour-cast will be enough to completely colour the shot as a monochrome. Moody and atmospheric shots are especially good with strong gels. They make for some great scenes. If you have an off-camera flash you will be able to try a wider range of shots with brighter results too. Just lightly tape the gel onto the lens of the flash so it shines through the gel when the flash goes off.
  • Shoot through glass. Shop windows, especially armoured glass often imparts a greenish tinge to everything you see through it. It also gives a sort of dreamy, almost watery feel to the shot. Try taping a small piece of glass like that to the front of your lens hood.
  • Colour ordinary glass. There are many types of colourant that will go on a small piece of glass. Various paints, makeup, inks, food colour… I am sure you can think of a few others too. The single colour will be imparted to the shot. Some of the things you put on will give an inconsistent coverage. More creative fun can be had by producing patterns on the glass with your colourant. Then you will be able to influence not only your monochrome shot, but also the texture of the exposure.
  • Processing. There are a whole range of ways you can get some shots to be post-processed in a monochrome. You could just have a go with your favorite image editor. Experimenting is a great way to learn. I will also be doing a future article on monochrome processing here.

I hope those ideas give you great creative thoughts. Activities like this are fun and great for extending your skills. Just make sure you keep exotic liquids, paint and chemicals off your lens. They may damage the coating on the glass.

Don’t Photograph in Black and White

A much loved dog in our family. Is this portrait better in black & white or full colour?

A much loved dog in our family. Is this portrait better in black & white or full colour?

You should be making the decisions – not your camera

I love photographing dogs. They have such a lovely texture in their fur. A friendly dog loves the attention too so you can have fun together with a camera. However, it struck me that this shot might not be that good in black and white. I ‘quite’ like it. But, I am very glad I did not take it in black and white because I prefer the full colour shot. Lets look at the reasoning…

Most cameras these days can directly take black and white photographs. From the push of the shutter button you get a black and white (or greyscale) picture. However, the process that takes place is quite interesting. The digital sensor is just hardware. It takes a full colour shot every shot. Next, the on-board computer does some processing. This processing is controlled by a computer program. The camera manufacturer has worked out what they think is a good black and white picture. The program tells the computer to process the file according to their ideas. It also tells the computer to dump all data from the shot not used in the final picture. The result is an interpretation by a computer program written by someone who was not there when the shot was taken. And, to add insult to injury, the rest of the data is thrown away. The colour can never be retrieved.

It’s possible that the shot is good. However, a lot of personal choice goes into a black and white photograph. The depth of contrasts, the blending of the colours, the tonal variations and the intensity of the blacks and whites are all contributing factors to how my photograph comes out. My black and white preferences are not something that can be accurately reproduced by computer program. And, they certainly cannot be reproduced on every shot.

On the other hand you can take a full colour picture and process it yourself. This gives you the ability to control the factors that make a black and white photograph so potent. And, at the same time, you have also got a copy of the full colour version in case the black and white photo did not work out as you hoped.

In the case of the picture above, I preferred the full colour shot. I would have been very disappointed if I had taken a black and white and it did not work out. Because I would have had nothing of value. Now, I have a full colour shot I like. I also have had some fun doing the conversion to black and white. Nothing lost, lots gained.

One important thing to remember. If you are going to do full colour to black and white conversion it is best to shoot in RAW. This gives you much better colour depth to do the conversion and more control over your tones. If you are shooting in *.jpg files then you will have little control as the camera has already dumped a lot of the data from the picture.

Don’t let your camera make the decisions. Do the conversion yourself and also have the luxury of the full colour version as well.

Doing colour to black and white conversions is fun. So there will be a follow up to this article on doing the processing yourself. In the meantime, here is the full colour version of the picture above.

The same picture as above in full colour. I have the luxury of choosing which I like best as well as full control over the final conversion.

The same picture as above in full colour. I have the luxury of choosing which I like best as well as full control over the final conversion.