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

TOP 5 MYTHS OF PHOTOGRAPHY EXPOSED !

Being a good photographer in this world is tougher than you think. And there are always people who mess things up for those who want to become good photographers.

I found this article from Picture/Correct about the Top 5 Most Exasperating Photographic Myths, and had to share this with you. Article was written by Cole Dunn. This will certainly make you feel better, if you are trying to really become a good photographer:

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I know, as a photographer, that there are countless misconceptions that non-photographers (and in some cases, even photographers!) don’t quite seem to grasp. From the hundreds I could name, I have narrowed the list to five of the most exasperating misconceptions about photography:

1. Photography is easy

Nothing frustrates me more than when people claim photography is easy. Sure, it’s easy to take a picture; however, being a photographer is more than just taking a picture. It’s an art. It requires experience and skill to take a visually appealing picture. As a photographer, you must understand how lighting works, when to actually take the picture, and MANY more variables to take good photographs. It’s not as easy as what most people think (i.e., taking a ‘selfie’ and chucking a quick filter over it on Instagram).

selfie photography
“Taking a Selfie” captured by Susanne Nilsson

2. “Your camera takes great pictures!”

No, it does not. I take the great picture. My camera is merely a tool that allows me to execute my skills to my highest ability. This is another thing that irritates me. Sure, most of the time, the person delivering this statement means it in a positive way, but I can’t help but take it as more of an insult than anything. It’s essentially dismissing the years of experience, the amount of practice, and my overall skills in photography, and claiming that my camera is the mastermind behind my photographs. So please, if you’re one of those people who thinks the camera itself is the reason for professional photographs, bite your tongue.

Can I also just add that using a more expensive camera does not mean your photographs will be better? You can give an amateur a really expensive, high-standard camera, and it does not mean that their photographs will outperform a professional photographer with a low-budget camera. That said, if you know how to use a high-quality camera and all of its features exquisitely, then maybe this point is not applicable to you.

3. Nikon is better than Canon

Saying Nikon is better than Canon is like saying apples are better than oranges. It’s a completely misleading way of thinking in terms of photography, and (similarly to the previous point) you should refrain from speaking. Basically, Nikon and Canon are both excellent camera brands. However, one might be more suitable for one person, and the other might be more suitable for the other person. The camera choice is all relative to the camera owner. It depends on what exactly you want to do with the camera, and what you want to achieve. Maybe the person making certain claims simply had a negative experience with one of the brands, which is not to say you will have the same experience at all.

nikon and canon cameras
“Untitled” captured by 伊特諾 雷

Instead of taking someone’s word in regards to which camera is better, you should instead do something cool, and that’s called research. The strange thing about research is that you can develop your own perspective of which camera is better and maybe come up with your own conclusions. Research includes looking up reviews of the camera you find appealing and comparing the camera with other cameras you might also have an interest in. You should also take the camera’s price into consideration and see if that price justifies its features.

4. Age is a barrier to success

This is simply far from the truth. Just like music: there is no ‘expiry’ date to being a successful photographer. In fact, how old do you think I am? I could be 90 years old, or I could be 16 years old. I’ll tell you right now that I’m neither of those ages; however, I am somewhere in between.

photographers of all ages
“The Child and the Cameras” captured by Carine Felgueiras

Basically, this point is to disprove the misconception that age is a barrier to success. I know people of all ages, sexes, races, etc. who are extremely passionate about photography. All those things are simply unimportant to their success as photographers.

5. Black-and-white images are better and more professional

Finally, we have come to my favorite point of all: black-and-white photos. Now, don’t get me wrong; black-and-white photos can work really well, but the lack of color does not instantly make them professional. It depends on the photo itself and how the black and white has been executed. However, nothing irritates me more than when people throw on a black-and-white filter and call it photography. There is far more to photography than people understand. If you’re one of these people who think a black-and-white photograph is simply superior, and every other photograph is inferior, I want you to do something for me. Google “black and white photography,” click “Images,” and then compare the first result to your black-and-white image(s). This should probably prove my point that black and white does not necessarily make an image better.

black and white photography
“Rain Bubbles” captured by Chrissie

There you have it—some of the most “you-are-blatantly-misled” misconceptions that a photographer will hear throughout their career/hobby as a photographer. Let’s hope this article can make an impact toward obliterating these insulting misconceptions.

About the Author:
Cole is a writer/photographer who owns his own laboratory… I mean…website at considerphotography, which is chock-a-block full of information about photography.

Before we end this article, I want to add my thoughts to this article:

1- Photography is easy. Oh really, and who is the judge of that? The non photographer. Unfortunately, I do see people who think that, and they jump in to taking photos before they are really prepared to be classified as a photographer. So, they took a few good photos. So what! That does not classify them as a good photographer. When the professional says you need to shoot at least 10,000 photos, and try to learn on all of them, they really mean it. So don’t go out and start taking photos, without the experience behind your belt and start selling “portrait packages” or start shooting weddings. I get so irritated when people just ask their best friend, or uncle to shoot their wedding photos, the photos that should mean the most to a person. Please be smart and don’t go out and try to be a professional photographer without taking the journey first.

A previous photo from “Photos of the Week”…… Author unknown. Notice that this is not some ordinary snapshot taken by a photographer who has been doing this for a year. My guess is this photographer is well seasoned. I can point out a dozen different things to this photo that make it so much better because of experience.

2- That camera takes great photos ! Photography is an art. You are the creator of your best photos. Your best photos can come from a very inexpensive camera, once you have learned composition, post-production, and several other things. The photographer will eventually come to the point that every photo he takes, he seriously thinks about and “creates” as he snaps the shutter.

3-Nikon is better than Canon. Oh, my favorite subject. I have been in the retail camera business for close to 23 years. And you know, these camera manufactures will not be in business today if they were producing bad cameras. And I have found that as I sold different cameras, I could find features on every brand that I sold that I liked. So, what do I own now? It doesn’t really matter. And in fact, when I get around to buying my next camera, it will probably be a different brand than the one I own now. So, take the advice of Mr. Dunn in the article above, and do your own research before you buy a camera. Here is a list of the major camera manufactures today that I feel all have something different to offer:

  • Canon
  • Nikon
  • Pentax
  • Olympus
  • Sony
  • Panasonic
  • Leica
  • Contax
  • Fuji Film

4-Age is a barrier to success. What a nasty myth. There are so many great stories of how some people started their new business at age 67. or became a great photographer by the age of 18. If you are willing to learn, you can be successful at any age.

5- Black and white images are more professional and better than color. I love a good black and white photo, and there is a place for them. But, to say they are better than color is a very strange myth. Here is my rule for black and white: If it can look better or equal to color, then go ahead and make it a black and white photo.

Here is an experiment I did on an old bench, and I thought, when I took this photo, that black and white would be better than color. See what you think:

Color:

Black and White:

It takes practice to see a photo that may look better in black and white than in color. But, in most situations, color could be better than black and white, with the same subject.

So, I hope you learned something from this presentation. Happy shooting !