Last Thursday, this website just posted the annual: ”THE ART OF BLACK AND WHITE, Vol. 6″. When you look at these photos, I wanted to explain how these photos were selected so you can see why these particular photos were chosen. Then as you shoot black and white, perhaps you too, can think more about how your black and white photos might become more of a winning black and white photo!
I spend months in preparation for this annual presentation of “The Art of Black and White” to find Photos that fit a certain criteria. Let me explain. These black and white photos, when done properly actually are more artistic, and actually look better in black and white than in color. And you have to realize here that black and white photos are another form of a Photographic art form. So, if you are a person who only takes color photos, and just can’t see the artistic value of black and white, then, hopefully, when I get done here, maybe you can see why these photos are so well done in black and white than in color.
One of the reasons this photo was chosen, and the reason it is chosen as a great black and white photo over a color photo is that: A- A great photo in the morning or evening (the golden hours) are amazing because of the shadows cast by the sun. Now this particular photo has shadows galore. The sun is shining perfectly across the brick walkway. In color, yes, you would get dark shadows, but, in black and white, the shadows have even more contrast, because it’s black and white. Every single brick in the walkway has it’s own individual black shadow. The composition is already perfect with the leading lines and it just makes the perfect black and white photo because of the extreme contrast in this photo. B- The other thing that makes this photo so great is because it has such a strong back light, and because it also has a tunnel, which makes the shadow so black, the photo naturally has intense white and black, very little greys. There are some greys in the bricks, which are perfectly exposed. So, that is why this photo is so perfect as a black and white.
The reason this black and white photo, to me, is obvious. What is the subject here? Is it the mama bear or the baby bear? It’s the baby bear, naturally. So, could this be done in color? Yes! But, it has much more impact in black and white. In color, it’s just another snapshot. It has more impact in black and white. It shows the fact that mama bear is just there, and it may be a brown bear, but, it makes it look much more impactful as a black or grey bear than a brown bear. And that makes the little white baby bear more of a standout subject in black and white than it would in color. Sometimes if you run into this kind of contrast, check and see if it would look better in black and white, than in color. But if you do, make sure it has the perfect contrast to give it the shock value that this one did.
Photographer David Kipping is a pure artist in Black and White. It amazes me how many photographers can see the following: the sky sunset lighting is just perfect, every light in the buildings are lit up, and reflections in the water are there as well. Post production enhancements? Who knows? But, don’t you find that every thing that makes this photo so incredible is there! Everything lit up so perfect. And then, of course David added his own extra touch by adding a nice border around the photo to make this black and white even more spectacular! How could I not put this in the exhibition.
A portrait done in black and white! I hesitate to post portraits in black and white, but, I do it if I find the perfect portrait. Now, what makes me post a portrait in black and white? Would it look good in color? Probably yes! But, in this case, it also looks so amazing in black and white as well. Why? This has to have a perfect exposure and perfect lighting to make it. That’s it. And a portrait in black and white, generally does not have much whites on the face, but, perfect grey tones. And the shadows on the face are not black, but, have detail still in the shadows. So, this is just such a perfectly exposed photo, with the perfect lighting, and the perfect amount of lights and shadows. And the grey tones are perfect. I was totally mesmerized by the quality of this portrait.
The above 2 photos were chosen for the popularity of this new trend in photography: “negative space”. Here we have a subject in the photo, but so much space surrounding the subject. Both these photos are some of the most popular in the collection because of this new type of photo, where there is so much space around the subject. In a collection of photos in an art gallery recently, people were asked which kind of photo they would like if they were to purchase a photo, and the majority of people chose this type of photo. There is something about how these type of photos create some kind of special “Mood” to the picture, something serene, something soothing, and it seems to be in black and white that is the most popular. Or if it is in color, it seems to be one tone, anyway. So, it might as well be black and white because it’s already got the mood.
This particular form of black and white was easy to choose. You can’t create this in color. Jack uses an infrared filter to create this photo, and if you ever go back to the era of film, infrared film existed then, but, to my recollection, there was no infrared filters. Today, you would use an infrared filter to get the effect that black and white infrared film used to do years ago. Sometimes the effect can be a bit strange, but, in this case, it certainly brought out an interesting contrast in the clouds, and the subject itself. But, it was unique enough to make it easily into the black and white choice of a winning collection. Jack takes a lot of photos with the infrared filter and they are all amazing photos. I don’t know of other photographers specializing in this art, like Jack Chamberlin. Congrats Jack for being unique in this art form.
This photo by Tammy Nash was chosen because of the stark contrast found in a scenery picture, and the amazing reflection found to accentuate the contrast above the water. Look close and see trees and house reflected in the lake so well, and I would be curious to really know the color of that house, but, it sure makes this work so well, whatever the color of the house is, in black and white. This photo is just a real, nice contrast black and white scenery photo…. which you don’t see that often with trees. Great shot. Would it have worked in color? I don’t think you would have been as excited in color as it is in black and white, and that is why it was chosen.
Could we call this a study in chaos? I am not sure, but, I think this is housing Greece or some place like that, and I think it only works well in black and white as well. Because in color, I don’t think the chaos would be as interesting. This way all the homes become the same color, the satellite dishes all just seem to be part of the picture, and it just almost seems like a story is to be told here. It is an amazing story to this photo. That is another reason you take photos, is to tell a story. And this one sure tells a story. As I was searching photos one day, I came across this photo, stopped, looked at this, chuckled a bit, went on, came back to this, and said, that this one had to be in the collection. It made me stop and look at it several times. Then I studied it, to see if it met the criteria: would this be better in black and white or color? And I determined it is better in black and white.
A silhouette done in black and white. What do you get? Black and White. A silhouette done in color. What do you get? An orange and black photo (because it’s usually a sunset photo) So, in this case, I like the black and white because it adds to the mood of the photo. Do we want to see this guy walk off into the sunset. Now, he could be going to work, or walking to his home, or going to see his girlfriend. It opens up a lot more variety of thoughts. The other interesting thing about this photo: Notice how many street lights are in this photo. Are they really only 6 feet apart? No, if you are familiar with how lenses work, this had to be taken with some huge telephoto lens to get that kind of compression. That man may be a mile away or at least a long way away, not sure. But, that is some skilled photo taken here. Plus, I like the big open sky to this photo as well.
The old, old black and white photos, say back in the early 1900’s, could not really be truly printed in black and white, or even late 1800’s. If you saw them, many of them had, what we called, a sepia tone to them. They were really well loved because of that. They gave a nice brown tone to them, and it seemed like many printers back in those early days did that to lessen the harshness of black and white. Later as black and white became more artistic, rather than out of necessity, many artists gave their photos the “sepia tone” effect to their black and white photos. I saw this photo done with that effect, and had to include that in the black and white collection because it is part of history, to have photos printed or made in the sepia tone effect. Plus, the artist went out of his way to make it look old, and dark, and almost like you expected an old Model T, to come pick this man up. The whole photo was just well composed, well staged and well toned, and deserved to be in the collection.
This photo, for a black and white photo, seems to be just the opposite of the typical black and white “moody” grey, dark photo, but a real “high key lighting” photo. This you just don’t see too much in black and white, and that is why this photo was chosen. It creates more of a happy mood when people see this photo. The composition is well done, plus, it also has a feeling of an “old time photo” where you have the old homes and buildings in the background. And in the older photos, you seemed to always get a swan in the photo. Just a classic photo that just jumped out at me, and made me smile. This is just a “feel good” photo.
Finally, this photo has some unique things to it. It has a small winter stream in this that is blurred with a slow shutter speed. Now, someone may ask, if this would be better done in color as well? I think, when you think of a winter photo like this, you have to realize that winter has so much snow, and ice, there is really very little color to most winter photos. Black and white fits a lot of winter photos. Where this stream is, you can tell that it is backed with a black rock, and there are no shadows, so it is obvious that there is no sunshine. So, black and white is the only appropriate way to take this photo. If you had done it in color, it would not have been very colorful. Bravo to Ron Paula for using such a long shutter speed to create the stream to look like that. I love streams that have that effect in photography, and the winter effect, still leaves this looking cold to me. Amazing photo.