I find it interesting at how photos evoke a different set of emotions when viewing it in black and white. There is an air of romance, sophistication, timelessness and mystery to it. Pictures become more alive, more dramatic and convincing simply because other elements like lighting, contrast, texture, tonal qualities and composition take on a bigger role in telling the story.
The part of stripping away the vibrancy of color and playing with grey tones, allow me to get down to the real essence of the image or to look for that certain element that would make the picture stand out. In my point of view, black and white photos add a certain layer of complexity that allows viewers to re-think and to have better eye for its true meaning (that is why it is more dramatic). The choice to appear void of color says a lot about the subject, its context and most especially to the photographer.
I considered myself as a self taught photographer. I have no formal lessons on finding the right setting or working on lighting to make an image successful. I am just passionate in capturing moments, writing stories and perhaps opening a different perspective to others that may not take the time to see otherwise.
Though not a photographer by profession, I felt like I wanted to share with you some few tips on what elements to look for in getting your photos right in black and white. I’m sure you’ll find something that resonates in you and probably apply it in finding beauty in black and white.
- NATURAL DRAMA– Black and white is all about capturing a sense of drama. These may include shape, form as well as texture such as wood grain, stark metal or any repeated patterns in nature such as waves or spiral. This may also include heighten or intense emotions like sadness, anger, or any peculiar quality that could make impact to your viewers. Somehow these ‘so-called dramas’ respond well in black and white. Patterns and texture look more compelling in the absence of color simply because they stand out and create their own story.
- ATTITUDE IN SUBJECT- Portraits that are literally challenging look better in shades of grey. The imperfections such as blemishes, uneven skin tones, wrinkles and other things create more depth to the subject. It gives an attitude causing heighten emotions to viewers.
- SETTINGS- Fog, mist and haze all have the potential to create a surreal and almost dreamlike image. The enchanting tones and eerie quietness surprisingly gives serenity and stillness to the portrait.
- THINK CONTRAST– Even if the lighting is dull, a well-chosen muse will offer a striking tonal contradiction. For instance, a black cat in a white sofa will naturally be a source of contrast. There is also a profound effect on the choosing your angle of light. Imagine creating a dramatic silhouette through a well-lighted window.
- PLAY IN MONO- Develop an eye for mono. During the 1980’s my dad would take me to silent movies such as ‘The Charlie Chaplin Movie’. From that time on, I have come to love pictures in black and white to such extent that scenes in my memory play out in black and white. All the textures, drama, tones and shadows come into view little by little until they seem to build up to the most intense emotion of splendidness. Practice playing the scene in your mind in black and white. It will definitely help.
Your picture should convey emotion, mood, narrative, ideas and messages to create impact to your viewers.
How do you find pictures in black and white? Share your thoughts…