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 . 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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Photokonnexion Photographic Glossary – Definitions and articles.
Definition: Hard Light
Definition: Soft Light
Retronaut – many historical and black and white images
See also: Editors ‘Bio’
By Damon Guy :: Profile on Google+