Black and white images have been around since the dawn of Photography - it is all they could use to be fair! It has therefore been associated with fine art photography and classic photography today, but with many people shooting in full colour, should we still shoot B&W, does it still hold up?
“I think it’s because it was an emotional story, and emotions come through much stronger in black and white. Colour is distracting in a way, it pleases the eye but it doesn’t necessarily reach the heart.” – Kim Hunter
I adore shooting in black and white, for me it is a simple aesthetic thing, I just seem to prefer black and white images, they are timeless and beautiful, simple yet complicated!
However, shooting in black and white requires a lot more than simply slapping a filter on a photograph and calling it a day, to get the best images, you have to put a lot more time and effort into it, be methodical in the way you approach the image. A subject I will cover in a later blog post!
What types of images look good in black and white?
Everything! Any genre of photography can be achieved, and achieved well, in black and white. When you look at an image that has been developed in monochrome, your minds eye tends to focus on the subject far more that if the image was in full colour. When we are able to focus on the subject of any photograph with minimal distractions, then I would say that the photographer has done a good job, and so black and white images may be where you should start!
Black and white processing also works well when you are in a low light situation and you have to crank up that ISO on your camera to get a clear shot. The grain that is produced from the high ISO may actually add to a black and white photo in a way that it wouldn't with colour, giving it an aged feeling! You will see this from a few of my street shots where it was pitch black apart from a few distant lights, and so i had to really push the camera to achieve focus, shooting these in black and white give it a pleasing aesthetic, that masks the fact that they are actually grainy out of necessity!
Landscape shots also lend themselves to black and white shooting, if you have a cloudy day and you reduce the luminance of the blues in your photo, you will achieve a very vivid black and white sky! Again, without the distraction of colour, you are able to focus the viewer on what really matters, the subject. this again, will be included in a later tutorial!
Tips for shooting black and white.
See things in black and white - set your cameras live view to monochrome and compose your image with B&W in mind. when you do this often enough, you will be able to develop a keen eye, and stat composing shots in your head that you think will fit the aesthetic, almost like the Tetris effect!
Shoot RAW - You should always shoot RAW - but especially with B&W images, keep all of that information so you can play about with the photograph in post.
Use the black and white mix feature in Lightroom - Like I said before, B&W is not just slapping a filter on, play about with the colour information of the photo (A tutorial will follow)