This might seem like strange ad­vice, but it’s cru­cial for the best black and white

Digital Photograper - - Techniques -

In the days be­fore dig­i­tal, you didn’t shoot colour and then chance upon a black and white ver­sion later on. You knew you were shoot­ing black and white, and only black and white, if you had a roll of Ko­dak Tri-X 400 loaded into your cam­era. What might seem re­stric­tive from the per­spec­tive of 21st cen­tury dig­i­tal free­dom was in fact the first cru­cial step to­wards shoot­ing suc­cess­fully in mono. You had to make your images work in the pa­ram­e­ters in which you were work­ing; in other words, you had to pre-vi­su­alise in black and white. If you didn’t feel that the shot would work in black and white, you gen­er­ally wouldn’t shoot it. You would al­ter the com­po­si­tion, change the light (if pos­si­ble) or make some other ad­just­ment in order to en­sure that the fi­nal im­age would ac­tu­ally work in mono.

This is very dif­fer­ent to how many peo­ple interact with black and white in the dig­i­tal age, cherry-pick­ing suit­able can­di­dates from their Lightroom cat­a­log and then mak­ing a quick black and white con­ver­sion to see if their in­stincts were sound. But set­ting out to shoot in black and white en­ables you to look for sub­jects, scenes, light­ing and fram­ing op­tions that ac­tu­ally truly lend them­selves to the medium, and if you want to cap­ture black and white images that stand out, this re­ally is the best way for­ward.

How­ever, there is one thing that the days of black and white film have in com­mon with the dig­i­tal age, and that’s the con­cept of post-pro­duc­tion, and im­age ma­nip­u­la­tion in the form of dodg­ing and burn­ing. With black and white pho­tog­ra­phy, al­ways re­mem­ber that adding more con­trast post-cap­ture (as is done in the tra­di­tional dark­room through the use of a harder grade of pa­per), or the se­lec­tive light­ing and dark­en­ing of key ar­eas of the im­age, is an im­por­tant el­e­ment that is best con­sid­ered in some way at the point of cap­ture, as far as pos­si­ble. With prac­tice, you will de­velop an in­stinc­tive sense of where your images can be taken in the post-cap­ture stages and shoot with this in mind. More on this later in the fea­ture.

Below IN­TEND TO SHOOT MONO hav­ing the clear in­ten­tion to shoot in black and white from the be­gin­ning will help to in­form the com­po­si­tion, light­ing, pose and cloth­ing choices

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