At college we did a workshop in seeing in black and white. Black and white photography or monochrome as it is also called, is how photographs were taken before colour was introduced. The photographers of the time probably had to pre-visuize what they were shooting. They would probably realise that colours like yellow or light pink will show up more like a shade of white than dark blue or brown for example. Monochrome is still used today in some circumstances and provides a different aspect to photography. Sometimes people still have their wedding photographs shot in black and white film with “old style” photographic black and white prints on paper, I think this style of photography is still very valid in customer’s demands and also people pursuing photography as a hobby or proffesionally. Personally I like monochrome in certain cases, and will use it when I see fit.
The colour in images shot today is visible light with a specific wavelength, and black is where there is no visible light at all, white contains all wavelengths of the visible light.
I think successful black and white photography has very good strong contrast to make the image more striking and it also separates parts of the image and thus becomes easier to see the image as a whole. Some lower contrast images will work but are not my favourite style.
Here is an example of a low contrast image, you instantly know what it is but it is rather plain for my liking.
I love the landscape photographs of Ansel Adams, his work is very contrasty and I imagined he burned in the sky in a lot of his photographs as they look like todays HDR photographs. Although after doing some research on this I found out that the majority of his images like these were shot with a filter on the lens to get the contrasty sky’s; but not all of them, some were in fact burned in during printing.
Above is an Ansel Adams image called Cathedral peak and lake that I like.
Taking black and white photographs as opposed to colour is only taking away the hue of the colour, you are still left with saturation, lightness and contrast but these are all you have to work with so it is best practice to alter these as well as possible.
After you have shot images with todays digital cameras there are numerous software packages that you can convert your images to monochrome in. Photoshop, Lightroom and Nik software are amongst these.
At college we went out shooting images in monochrome, our cameras were set to RAW and jpeg, so that the jpeg could be set to monochrome in camera. We were told we would be cropping square, so I took this into consideration when I was framing my images. I was looking for square shaped things to photograph with lots of texture or patterns as I knew these would look contrasty in monochrome.
Here are some examples of the images I shot after I had edited the images in silverFX and below is a screen shot of the silverFX program while one of the images was in the program.
You can see in the screenshot I have added 26% contrast and 30% structure. The structure I added gives a feeling of old weathered photos and the white framed vignette I have added gives a faded look to these old style photographs. The image on the left is the photo as it was shot, and the one on the right is the edited version.
I then imported the images from silverFX pro to Lightroom so that I could position nine images into a three by three collage to print at college.
Here is the finished result of my collage. As you can see my images are all very high contrast with the black being very black and some lighter tones are showing. I do think these images would have worked better if the edges were all showing, this is a problem I have not rectified yet when swapping images from one program to another, and then putting them into a collage of 3×3.
I love the way the program silverFX changes the look of the images when you add structure to them, I am sure I will use this feature in the future and explore more of the possibilities of the program.
I did feel though that my images did look a little flat and lacked any real depth to them, this is probably because I was looking for square shapes all the time and was photographing them at a ninety degree angle to them most of the time, the sky was also overcast on the day so that would show images that are slightly flatter in appearance also, this is because the overcast day gives more of a diffused lighting effect.
Maybe more depth to the images would have looked a little better by shooting the images at a different angle while using shallow depth of field so that some of the background is out-of-focus and this would make the subject pop out more.
I will certainly be using the silverFX Pro program in the future, as it is a good image manipulation program.