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Thursday, August 19, 2004

Why Black and White

Have you done any black and white photography yet? Or the idea of no-colors reminds you of nothing but your dad's old TV ?

Well believe me, it can be very interesting. In fact it can help you a lot on mastering the very basic skill of capturing lights and shadows. Recently there was some discussion at dslreports.com on black and white vs. color photography which made me think why should a beginner take interest in Black and White Photography? The world is so colorful and it's so wonderful to take some instant gratification about your photography simply by capturing colors with your new Digicam (see: "Colors with G5" ) . Why bother to go to Black and White ? Well, here is my take on Black and White clicking.

If we think of color photography as the generalization and black and white as a specialization of color photography where colors are toned down, then in general, the skill of photograpy has following elements

  1. Identifying the subject
  2. Composing the frame
  3. Emphasizing the subject
  4. Capturing the colors
  5. Capturing lights, shadows, contrasts
  6. Creating an overall pleasing (not disgusting) photograph

( I am considering technical skills like selecting proper Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO, Depth of Field etc. as implicit to skills above )

With no offence to people who use filters to get the colors right, capturing colors is the easiest in the list for a digital photographer. In fact it is pretty much simplified to having a good camera and selecting proper white balance option on your Digicam.

The colors are there whether you take the picture or no. You are capturing them as it is, while the rest of the elements, you have to learn and master. Lights and shadows are also there even if you dont take the picture, but they may vary a lot by varying angle.

Also, Eventhough they are the easiest to capture, colors contributes a lot to the overall good feeling of a photograph according to human brain/eye. So a very simple picture of a flower may look so pleasing to a human brian/eye - simply because it is colorful - a very biological or genetic reason I guess.

Now, imagine if this easiest element is taken away from you ! Without color, a lot of emphasis will shift on lights and shadows, proper subject identification etc rest of the elements of the skill ! It will require you to be much better in rest of the elements of the skill to make a picture that can compete with a colorful pic!

I think B&W is a lot more demending in terms of photography skills and that is what attracts me. I believe every beginner should do some fun B&W photography to sharpen the rest of the skills. Without being 'distracted' by colors, you can focus a lot on lights and shadows, because that's all you've got!

I don't mean to say, a black and white picture is better or more artistic compared to color. The vibrant colors and their pleasing effect on our genetically hard coded brain can not be easily competed by a BW pic. But BW pic has to try very hard on rest of the elements of the picture to be able to compete with a colorful pic. Kinda like, if you are not the best dressed person in the party, then you better be very good at Tap Dancing or Singing or have a great sense of humour to be the center of attraction :-)

Some of my BW attempts below.

Three is company

Singapore Airport

Labor Transportation, INDIA

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey nice info you posted.
I just browsing through some blogs and came across yours!

Excellent blog, good to see someone actually uses em for quality posts.

Your site kept me on for a few minutes unlike the rest :)

Keep up the good work!


10/19/2005 08:08:00 AM  
Blogger banner ads said...

There is alot of Blogs, I never guessed I'd find some usefull information.

I'll be back later to see if anymore good updates are available.

10/25/2005 06:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What settings did you use for the picture of the workers in the truck? I have a G5 and I am wondering what settings to use for a group family portrait (8 people) I seem to only get one person in focus and everyone else seems to blur...should I use the landscape mode? BTW, your photos are great, I only wish I were able to utilize my G5 to it's full extent as you have!

12/10/2006 06:27:00 AM  
Blogger little miss kechik said...

hei. i was talking to my bestfriend who's also a digital photography junkie.. about what makes a good B&W photo. your blog gives me some input on going about it. thanks!!!

6/29/2007 07:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a college student studying to become a photographer i think that learning black and white photography is very important. It helps beginners to learn the very basics of photography. It helps develop and eye for shades and lighting which can really help make the photo. Also it gives a different feel to to photo. Digital photography is also great, but overall I would rather work in a dark room rather than a computer lab anyday.

10/30/2007 08:32:00 PM  
Blogger David Bowman said...

you have a very nice blog.
I really like your work.

would it be ok to add a link to this site on my photo blog page?


thanks for your time.


12/30/2007 09:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I think B&W is a lot more demending in terms of photography skills"

I would have to disagree. Color is way harder to shoot well. When I say well, I mean really well. Anybody can shoot B&W and have people go "Wow." It's very hard to do that in color though. Why do you think so many people prefer their wedding photos in B&W or want at least a selection of B&W photos? They are eye catching just because they are in B&W. Color you have to think of exactly the same things as B&W yet you also have to have good light, you have to be patient, waiting for the right light, the right nuances. B&W can be taken at almost anytime of day with good results. Why do you think many, many professionals avoided color for years and years and years even though Kodachrome had been available for years? It required way too much time and work to get results that they were used to getting in B&W. As well, with B&W there is no reality reference point. Nobody will say "the sky wasn't grey that day" because it's doesn't matter. B&W is reality so it doesn't matter whether Dodge and Burn to your hearts content. Try and fix a contrasty sky, or add a little more saturation with color, however, and people start screaming bloody murder (or "Photoshop!" if not murder).

1/28/2009 07:22:00 PM  

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