black and white

Photo Diary 78/365 • Choosing Black & White Photography

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Photographer Paul Outerbridge, well-known for his early use and experiment in color photography, had mentioned the difference between monochromatic and color photography; black and white imply a suggestion, but the color makes a statement. Others, like photographer Robert Frank, had seen in black and white photography symbols like hope and despair, a reflection of real life. In the search of what makes a black and white photo stunning and how to achieve it, these questions are hard to be answered.

I feel that some photos are meant to be black and white for many reasons; because in color they would look very boring and common; because their forms and lines would be lost in a saturated polyphony; because their textures and details would seem insignificant when covered by vibrant hues; because in black and white they evoke the 'right' sense and the feelings we want to share with them. 

How to figure out which photo to turn in black and white and which to keep in color, it's rather a matter of intuition and taste, except the case of being an exclusively black and white photographer. The only thing you can actually control is to make the best when you create a black and white photo. And, the basic guidelines is almost the same in every tutorial and article.

○○○ shoot in raw

I find it more time-consuming. I have my memory cards and my laptop full of raw photos that I have not yet process and published. But shooting in raw is definitely the only way to save the maximum information in every photo; textures, tones, gradients, shadows recovery, more shades of gray and details in highlights are all stored in your RAW file.

○○○ use low iso

How many times I wanted to turn one of my photos in black and white only to discover that the sky or other big surfaces were full of noise, covered with small bright spots everywhere. This is very common in even things that cover a big part of the photo like the sky. A way to avoid grainy appearance is to reduce ISO. ISO 400 and under may give a satisfying result, but keep in mind to adjust shutter speed in order to have sharp images.

○○○ intensity of light matters

In a composition that lacks colors, lightened areas substitute their role; they help us distinguishing objects and areas. Choosing an hour of the day with bright sun would make our monochromatic scene more clear and dramatic because the intensity of light would make the shadows more strong and highlights more bright.

25 Best Black and White Photography Examples and Tips for Beginners on

Chiaroscuro on

Robert Frank on

Ted Grant had written that when you photograph people in colors you photograph their clothes, but when you photograph them in Black and white you photograph their souls. Maybe all the things, not only people, hide something inside them, a kind of a 'soul' that is revealed to us by looking their monochromatic capture.

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