Friday, December 24, 2010

Tips for Shooting in BLACK & WHITE

Sumo Wrestlers warming up
Photo: Andrew Peacock
Patterns & Shapes

 Look for Contrast: One of the elements that can give interest to a black and white shot is contrast. Because you can’t use color to distinguish one element of your image from another the tonal variances become all the more important. This doesn’t mean you need to look for stark contrasts in every shot you want to convert to black and white – the subject matter will come into play here – but you should ponder how the contrast will come into play when composing your shot.

Wait for the Right Light: Linked to contrast, the lighting in a black and white shot can be very important. For example – h3 or direct lighting will often add to contrast. Side lighting will reveal any texture that a subject might have (and in portraits will accentuate features) and light from any one direction will create shadows. All of these techniques can add interest to a black and white image – however they can also be distracting – so play with light with care.

Shapes and Patterns: Patterns or shapes that can sometimes almost go unseen in color (due to the color itself drawing attention) can come alive in a black and white shot. Black and White shots that rely upon pattern can often take on an abstract quality.

Capture Texture: I’ve already mentioned this above when talking about side lighting – but revealing the texture of a subject can add a new dimension to an image. The sidelight does this by creating shadows.

A Tip for Black and White Landscapes: When shooting black and white landscapes look for ‘active skies’. I was given this advice by a photographer a few months ago who showed me some examples of his own black and white landscape work. The skies in his images were breathtaking with wonderful cloud formations and what often looked like storms about to break. Having skies with so much ‘action’ in them added mood and a really dynamic look and feel to his images. Without this active element the images looked rather empty and dull. I think the same principle could be applied to most types of black and white images that have large parts of them dominated by any one thing. If a large part of your image is all the same tone the image can look quite lifeless (unless of course you’re going for a more minimalist look.


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