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Thread: Learning to think in Black and White

  1. #1
    eNo's Avatar
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    Learning to think in Black and White

    The question of what makes a good Black and White (B&W) photograph has puzzled me more than any other photography-related issue. Frankly, for some time I operated under the principle that I never saw a B&W image that didn’t look better in color. Then came a trip to Paris this last spring. Following someone’s observation that “Paris was made for B&W photography,” I gave B&W a try, even setting my camera to capture B&W RAW files. I was amazed...

    You can read the rest of the write-up at: http://esfotoclix.com/blog1/?p=464

    After spending some time on technical aspects of photography, the blog is now going to take up more subjective topics on what it takes to make a good image. You might also find yesterday's installment, titled Realism and framing choice (http://esfotoclix.com/blog1/?p=337), thought-provoking.

  2. #2

    Re: Learning to think in Black and White

    Interesting link, thank you. You might find this one useful too http://www.digital-monochrome.co.uk/page1809.html

    Colour is not just pretty it gives shape and structure to a shot. It also gives out signals that you read - "that's blue, it could be sky" or "red - that must represent emotion/passion". When you go to b+w you lose that. So for a b+w image to work it has to rely much more on composition and strong lines to give structure. Light is also much more important in b+w to help boost the structure. I often watch old b+w movies just to study how the director uses light and camera angles. Also, I sometimes switch a colour DVD to b+w to see how well it works.

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    Re: Learning to think in Black and White

    I think for me, is a little difficult to make B&W images when using a color media. In the shooting I'm hunting for interesting images and i need to look for elements at my disposal, if I'm photographing in color color its an important element and any photo will be better in color. If I'm using a B&W media I tend to think only on the light and shape, color is just a mater of B&W value to enhance the composition and I can change this value with filters. For me B&W works only if I'm photographing using B&W, thinking only in getting monochrome images.
    best,
    Alex

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    eNo's Avatar
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    Re: Learning to think in Black and White

    Quote Originally Posted by carregwen View Post
    Interesting link, thank you. You might find this one useful too http://www.digital-monochrome.co.uk/page1809.html
    That was an interesting link. Thank you.

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    Re: Learning to think in Black and White

    As a small "aside" to that, one of the techniques I often use is to add an HSB layer to a shot - zero the saturation - and then use dodge / burn / levels / curves etc to get the shot looking good as a greyscale image - and when I'm done, discard the layer (so back to colour again).

    I find it handy in that they image gets to present itself on a number of levels (luminosity - colour - even selective focus and/or DoF), and usually yields a better result (possibly because I'm able to address these issues one at a time).

  6. #6

    Re: Learning to think in Black and White

    I thought this shot worked well in B&W for the reasons I gave before. It has lots of structure giving a good sense of depth. And the light runs in bands - starting at the bottom it goes dark, light, dark, light, dark. I have a colour version, but I think this works better.

    Learning to think in Black and White

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Learning to think in Black and White

    Hi Rob,

    Seeing this shot, the penny has finally dropped - IMHO almost any harbour/beach shot with several boats and all their bits and pieces in, is probably going to work better in B&W because of the highly colourful nature of the beast. More often than not, these scenes are extremely 'busy' and further complicated with blobs of eye-catching colour in all the wrong places!

    This probably applies to the shot above, even though the harbour element is quite a small part of the composition.

    That said, an overly busy harbour/boatyard shot with no obvious subject is just going to be a mess whether mono or colour! As you say, they need shape and structure (to the composition).

    Cheers,

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