Ep 267: Complete guide to Black and White photography

Black and white photography can totally transform the way people view your images. But it’s wrong to think that whacking a black and white filter on your shots will suddenly make them instantly more elegant or dramatic. In this episode, we talk about what kind of shots you should take in black and white, the situations/environments that best lend themselves to black and white photography and how to determine which colours look best in a monochromatic style.

Gina and Valerie hope you enjoy the podcast.

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Show Notes

Useful links

Alan Schaller

Listener Question

Quote

“To see in colour is a delight for the eye but to see in black and white is a delight for the soul” – Andri Cauldwell

“Color tends to corrupt photography and absolute color corrupts it absolutely. Consider the way color film usually renders blue sky, green foliage, lipstick red, and the kiddies’ playsuit. These are four simple words which must be whispered: color photography is vulgar.” – Walker Evans

What’s so good about it?

  • Timeless
  • Black and white takes away the distractions of colour and forces the viewer to focus on
  • Light, form, texture,contrast
  • Black and white strips away distracting details
  • Eg street scene of people the focus is on the colourful closes or women wearing a bright pink tracksuit.
  • When you strip away colour the viewer perceives the image differently and “fills in the blanks”

How to see in black and white
Before you can understand black and white you need to understand colour. Check out the colour wheels.

  • Red, Magenta and Green look very similar in black and white
  • Yellow and Light blue do too
  • Light green and blue look identical as do green and red
  • An image can “pop” in colour and once converted to black and white the contrast is lost.

Contrasting colours like red and green look amazing in colour but once converted to BW the image loses contrast

Understanding how colours convert to BW will help you discover the best subjects for BW photography

RED skin tones are difficult to shoot in BW
Fair hair and fair skin lacks contrast and looks shite in BW

Is the colour of light important to setting the mood of an image?

Sunset
Warm light

Image by Gina Milicia
Image by Gina Milicia
Image by Gina Milicia

 

Image by Gina Milicia
Image by Gina Milicia

Colour version of this image is too busy. The BW version removes all distractions.

All images above by Gina Milicia

Exercise:
For images on your smartphone: convert camera to black and white and spend a day seeing in black and white.

Digital camera Switch to Raw and Full size Jpeg and convert camera settings to BW.

  • The camera will only convert jpegs to BW.
  • Raw files will be in colour

What are the best subjects for black and white photography?

Easy subjects for black and white photography

Images that are high contrast and lack of colour will look beautiful in black and white

Image by Gina Milicia
Image by Gina Milicia

 

CONTRAST

Flat late afternoon light has no contrast and looks flat
Morning light has contrast and the shadows give the image depth and life

Light and shadows

Hard light creates contrast and contrast creates beautiful BW images

Patterns

Image by Gina Milicia
Image by Gina Milicia

Contrast

Dramatic skies and textures look amazing in BW

POST PRODUCTION

  • avoid grey dull skin tones
  • good tonal range
  • contrast
  • black point
  • white point

Exercise
Find 20 of your favourite images and convert them to BW using LR or snapseed of conversion software of your choice

Use of filters on Camera

Polarizer or Neutral grad filter to darken skies

Post-production

Burn Dodge (adjustment brush in LR) or Photoshop
Filters in lightroom

Use LR presets as a starting point  free with my newsletter)

Aussie Slang word of the week

Biccy: is short for “biscuit”. Be warned—in Australia, a biccy (biccies is the plural) is many things. A biccy can be a cracker, a cookie (American) or a plain, slightly sweet round snack you eat with your tea. The most common biccies are Tim-Tams, Saos (not sweet), choc-chip biccies – Source

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