SHOOT BLACK AND WHITE TO IMPROVE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY

Photo by Javant Kulkarni / The Art of Black and White

Have you ever done black and white photos? Do you think that there is a place for black and white in your repertoire? Are you not sure how to do black and white?

Let’s take care of all those questions and get you excited about taking black and white photos. Black and white is, what I like to call: “The true art of Photography”. Whether that is right or not, is totally up to you, but, I can take you to some black and white photos, and it would be breathtaking to see it.

The above photo is a great example of an artistic approach to black and white. And, I think there are a lot of people who would love to take a photo like that.

If you research old photography masters such as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, you’ll notice they photographed primarily in black and white. Now, part of this had to do with technical limitations of the time. Until the 1930s, color photography was tough to produce. Yet even once Kodachrome, a color film, was invented, plenty of photographers stuck to black and white, simply because they preferred it to color.

Why? One reason is that black and white presents interesting creative problems. The world looks different in black and white, which means that you can think about tone, texture, and light in new ways. In fact, when you remove color, the emphasis of an image naturally shifts to other compositional elements.

For some photographers, this can feel freeing; you’re no longer stuck thinking constantly about color but can instead focus on the more fundamental aspects of photography: tone and light.

grayscale photography of woman wearing veil
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

1. Black and white helps you see differently

If you research old photography masters such as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, you’ll notice they photographed primarily in black and white. Now, part of this had to do with technical limitations of the time. Until the 1930s, color photography was tough to produce. Yet even once Kodachrome, a color film, was invented, plenty of photographers stuck to black and white, simply because they preferred it to color.

Why? One reason is that black and white presents interesting creative problems. The world looks different in black and white, which means that you can think about tone, texture, and light in new ways. In fact, when you remove color, the emphasis of an image naturally shifts to other compositional elements.

For some photographers, this can feel freeing; you’re no longer stuck thinking constantly about color but can instead focus on the more fundamental aspects of photography: tone and light.

As I look around the internet for black and white photos, I just wish that people understood black and white better. There are far too many photographers, who take the photo in color, then convert it to black and white, without even caring about the artistic nature of black and white.

As you’re probably aware, not all great color images will translate well to black and white. But the inverse is also true: certain images that look great and black and white won’t look good in color, which means that you’ll have a whole new set of photo opportunities to contemplate.

2. Black and white eliminates distractions

Photo by Lanny Cottrell photogrpahy

The world in color is great, but sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming.

Specifically, there are plenty of distractions that exist in color that simply disappear when converted to black and white.

For instance, a rainbow shirt in a color portrait may draw the eye, but is essentially unnoticeable in B&W. And a distracting red rock in the foreground of a seascape might turn a nice neutral gray following a black and white conversion.

Plus, color itself can take away emphasis on contrast, texture, lighting, shape, and form. If you’re photographing a weathered man with a face full of wrinkles, black and white will highlight the texture of the wrinkles, the intensity of the man’s age. Whereas color will simply distract the viewer and prevent them from seeing what the photo is all about.

Photo by Atilla Hangyasi (2) / The Art of Black and White

Black and white can also eliminate distracting color casts that would otherwise subtly shift the viewer’s attention away from what matters.

3. Black and white offers increased creative choice

greyscale photography of woman holding umbrella
Photo by Kha Ruxury on Pexels.com

Since the world is in color, it is safe to say that color photography is more realistic and descriptive. A color photo depicts the world as it really is – whereas black and white photos only show a version of reality, one that seems more interpretive and creative.

In a sense, this can help you break free from certain restraints. Without color, you don’t have to show the world as it is; instead, you can show what you see, which might involve unusual relationships, interesting shadows, beautiful textures, and so on.

Ultimately, when you take away color, you remove what your viewer is used to seeing. Suddenly, you have to capture the viewer’s attention without the help of color – which also means that you’re free to have fun, experiment, and show the world in a completely new, creative way.

So in a way, black and white forces you to think, but it makes you more creative in the process.

4. Black and white adds emotion and mood

two bare trees
Photo by Todd Trapani on Pexels.com

When you look at the photos that have been in this article so far, do feel a certain mood or feeling with them?

Personally, I think black and white photos almost always create a wonderful mood – or in cases where the mood is already present, the B&W conversion makes it even more intense.

Why does black and white photography go hand in hand with moodiness? I’m not completely sure, but something about tonal range, rich blacks, and deep contrast just appeals to us psychologically. It creates an emotional connection, and it makes you stop, look around, and pay attention.

5. Black and white photography feels timeless

Here’s a common reason why photographers shoot in black and white:

It adds a timelessness to your images.

For one, black and white photography has existed since the beginnings of photography, which means that a black and white image cannot instantly be dated. Also, color schemes change over time, especially in clothing, business logos, cars, and architecture. Therefore, a color image will often include datable elements – but in black and white, these features may be much harder to place.

Personally, I feel that black and white photos seem to transcend reality. Look at the image below. Can you tell when it was taken? Is it a recent shot? Is it from 50 years ago? Or does it exist outside of time?

Photo by Niko Akin / The Art of Black and White

Most of this blog today is compliments of Nisha Ramroop from the Digital Photography School.

Do you have a particular subject on photography you would like to see? Then try this amazing “search engine” and find your subject here:

TODAY’S INSPIRATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY QUOTE:

When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and white, you photograph their souls!

Ted Grant

Published by 123photogo

I have been a photographer for many years. Worked in retail selling cameras and accessories for over 20 years. Taught many photo classes, and have even been a judge in several county fairs. Now, I want to share photo instructions and entertainment with all other photographers around the world.

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