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A pho­tog­ra­pher friend of mine used to say that a good way to judge if a com­po­si­tion works is to view the im­age up­side-down – if it still looks bal­anced and har­mo­nious with­out all the usual ‘right-way-up’ cues, then you know you’re onto some­thing. The same, I’d sug­gest, is true of colour: un­less colour is the sub­ject, a worth­while ex­er­cise is to strip an im­age of all of its colour and see if it still holds up.

Black and white is of­ten used to turn a medi­ocre im­age into a more strik­ing mono ver­sion by giv­ing it a more ‘au­then­tic’, filmic qual­ity, but that’s to miss the point of shoot­ing in black and white. One of our main cri­te­ria when judg­ing this is­sue’s com­pe­ti­tion (see page 83) was that black and white should not just im­prove an im­age, it should add some­thing that wasn’t there be­fore – a feel­ing, a mood, a bet­ter sense of the light­ing or tex­ture. Which is where this is­sue’s great fea­ture comes in: tack­ling five key gen­res in turn, it pro­vides prac­ti­cal ad­vice on what to look for when shoot­ing black and white and how to think – and shoot – with mono in mind.

And if this whets your ap­petite for mono, you can find more great ideas in our FREE ebook Teach Your­self Black& White Pho­tog­ra­phy, which you can down­load at bit.ly/BWe­book (note that the link is case-sen­si­tive). Happy (mono) shoot­ing!

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