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08-05-2022, 12:20 PM - 1 Like   #1
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Black & White Photography – Your Thoughts

I would love to have your thoughts.

I am currently updating my presentation on monochrome (B&W) photography. One section of the presentation focuses on the whys and wherefores of monochrome photos. It includes all the standard reasons and rationales that you cane read in almost any book or article about B&W photography. Also included are my personal reasons.

But I thought it would be interesting to the thoughts of other B&W shooters. So I am asking you to write a few words about why you like monochrome photography. What does it mean to you; what you shoot; how you post process; do you print; etc. Anything that you feel might be of interest to people being introduced to monochrome photography.

Many, many thanks in advance.

Don Simmons

08-05-2022, 12:49 PM - 1 Like   #2
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Hey Don,

I like Black & White for situations with little to no colour or where the colours add nothing to the composition – the whole impact is light and shade, form/geometry and texture. Whether I shoot B&W in the camera or process the raw file later is unimportant.

In processing, I like converting to grayscale in CameraRaw and then playing with the colour sliders to, say, make the (former) reds stand out or blues darker. It's rather like having a box of coloured filters without having to carry them around, or have to put up with the light loss involved.

I cut my photographic teeth on B&W many moons ago and still enjoy it.
08-05-2022, 01:29 PM - 2 Likes   #3
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When shooting a portrait, prefer Black and White when I want to bring attention to the shape of the facial features, and hopefully reveal a bit of personality, without color being a detractor.

For objects, BW is useful when I want to feature textures, or patterns, or contrasts.

For scenes, like street photos or crowd photos, I use BW to draw attention to some objects in the frame while minimizing other objects. For example, an orange traffic cone will draw attention away from the marchers in a parade.

In any of the above examples, BW can be used to emphasize a particular subject, but BW can also "harmonize" multiple objects within a scene to show the gestalt, or sum of the parts being greater than the whole, in a way that a color photograph might not.
08-05-2022, 02:47 PM - 3 Likes   #4
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I shoot 98% B&W. I feel like a tourist* when I shoot color because due to color blindness I see color differently than most, and I couldn't color grade an image to save my life, and I truly don't understand color. While I don't see in B&W, it is something I can reasonable adjust to taste. If I shoot color, I just accept the colors as is because adjusting them would create a weird alien world that no one would recognise as earth.


* When I say "tourist" I don't mean literally. A american tourist in Paris goes to all the obvious spots, and eats all the obvous foods. I am a tourist in the world of color--the only thing I can do with color is the obvious, and have no concept of subtlety in color.

08-05-2022, 03:59 PM - 1 Like   #5
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I guess you mean digital BW photography. I shoot a lot of BW film. But when I convert digital color to BW or monochrome, often it is for a high contrast scene where I want more dynamic range or the color is just not good from looking into the Sun or something.

I mean, when you pull up that hidden detail in the shadows with Sony sensors, it can be overdone with color shifts and it shows in the end results. Whereas in a BW conversion, that ugly brown shadow color does not show giving me that tonal scale to use.
08-05-2022, 05:31 PM - 2 Likes   #6
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All good reasons,
I learned on B&W film, way back when, and still "see" tonally in B&W. Though I almost always shoot color and think in terms of color when composing.
On occasion I process digital shots to B&W when I want to emphasize the lighting or shapes over color.

Also I've found it handy if you have a scene with too many different light sources, which just won't color correct to a pleasant balance.
Go to gray scale with it, and let the light and composition talk, instead of garish colors.
08-05-2022, 06:56 PM   #7
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It's a mindset for me I have before I ever take the picture. It's not something I think of doing after the fact with a color photo. I prefer shooting it in film, as I feel it's part of how I see when I do shoot black and white. I think I associate the grain of film as part of the quality that I like about black and white. Probably because that's how I started out in photography.

08-05-2022, 07:49 PM - 1 Like   #8
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Thanks for the responses so far. They are really appreciated. I look forward to more.
08-05-2022, 08:40 PM - 1 Like   #9
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I often shoot intentionally in b&w - but I also sometimes see that colors in a scene mask the shapes that I wanted to show. In those cases I end up experimenting with b&w and sometimes it works. Lastly if there are terribly obvious color aberrations that detract too much from the image and I can’t correctly mask them - I look at the image in b&w.
08-05-2022, 11:25 PM   #10
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I shoot RAW images, always in colour (but with occasional use of 'effects' filters [Shock ! Horror !!]. When reviewing images on computer, I sometimes find images which for various reasons I feel would be worth processing to Black and White - some for, as others have said, form and structure, some for eliminating distractions, some (especially Railway images) to add a sense of nostalgia to the image. As with so much, just depends on how I feel at the time - my only hard and fast rule is that there are no hard and fast rules.
08-05-2022, 11:51 PM - 2 Likes   #11
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Strong graphical elements/shapes work better in black and white; I "see" the image in B/W when they are there, so that is how I process the image from RAW and those images are "usually" the most successful.

But turning any old photograph into black and white doesn't automatically make it more interesting (or interesting full stop), something I have been guilty of on quite a few occasions...

Last edited by CraigR; 08-06-2022 at 12:15 AM.
08-06-2022, 12:21 AM - 1 Like   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by CraigR Quote
<snip>

But turning any old photograph into black and white doesn't automatically make it more interesting (or interesting full stop), something I have been guilty of on quite a few occasions...
As have we all, I am sure
08-06-2022, 12:53 AM - 2 Likes   #13
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I find converting images to B&W a great challenge.

My early efforts to convert to B&W produced mostly dull murky messes.

But I persisted.
08-06-2022, 01:17 PM - 1 Like   #14
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I'm quite conservative with my birding and landscape colour photos - keep it natural, no extreme filters or saturation, though I sometimes use a polarizer. B&W gives me a licence to go more with the drama - high contrast cloudscapes, mist and fog, snow and ice, strong shapes and lines, tonality and textures, sinuous driftwood, lonely shorelines - usually with the hard B&W setting on the Ricoh GRIII. For these shots I do minimal post-processing, if any. The Ricoh is always there in a pocket on my camera belt for when the wildlife gets quiet or other options are not as appealing.
08-06-2022, 02:23 PM - 1 Like   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by AggieDad Quote
I would love to have your thoughts.

I am currently updating my presentation on monochrome (B&W) photography. One section of the presentation focuses on the whys and wherefores of monochrome photos. It includes all the standard reasons and rationales that you cane read in almost any book or article about B&W photography. Also included are my personal reasons.

But I thought it would be interesting to the thoughts of other B&W shooters. So I am asking you to write a few words about why you like monochrome photography. What does it mean to you; what you shoot; how you post process; do you print; etc. Anything that you feel might be of interest to people being introduced to monochrome photography.

Many, many thanks in advance.

Don Simmons
I tend to use B&W when color would be misleading or distracting.

For example, I saw an old train station, where the owner had painted one side chartreuse. Inquiry revealed that the owner had a dispute with the city. By photographing the place in B&W, the chartreuse had minimal effect, but I could still record an image of what the old station looked like.
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