An in­tro­duc­tion to mono

See­ing colour in grayscale is the se­cret to great black & white im­ages. here we of­fer some in­sight as to how as well as other es­sen­tials skills

Digital SLR Photography - - The Beginner ’s Guide -

Vi­brant sun­sets and rain­bows, sparkling deep blue eyes and creamy skin tones, it isn’t a sur­prise that colour pho­tog­ra­phy gets so much glory. but, as won­der­ful as colour is, it’s also fa­mil­iar and re­al­is­tic, mak­ing us slightly un­com­fort­able when those colours don't look nat­u­ral. black & white, on the other hand, may not work for ev­ery im­age, but when it does it’s con­sid­ered an art form. it strips away any dis­trac­tions colour may bring, steps the im­age away from real life and gives you lim­it­less creative con­trol over its im­pact and at­mos­phere.

Our re­sponse to a black & white im­age is also usu­ally much more emo­tive than with colour; the sub­ject mat­ter al­most be­comes ir­rel­e­vant as light and shadow, tex­ture and shape are all brought to the fore­front. as long as your im­age has good shape, tonal range and in­trigue you’ll be amazed at what works as a suc­cess­ful black & white pho­to­graph.

While fan­tas­tic black & white pho­tog­ra­phy is eas­ier than ever to achieve with dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy, shoot­ing for mono­chrome re­quires a dif­fer­ent ap­proach com­pared to cap­tur­ing colour. back in the days of film pho­tog­ra­phy, you’d load your cam­era with a care­fully- se­lected roll of black & white film, you would carry around a set of colour fil­ters to con­trol con­trast and, if you were re­ally se­ri­ous, you’d have a dark­room set up in which you could dodge and burn to per­fec­tion. now, it’s as sim­ple as switch­ing your cam­era’s Pic­ture style/ Pic­ture Con­trols to Mono­chrome ( see panel) or con­vert­ing a colour im­age dur­ing pro­cess­ing, but the same prin­ci­ples of what makes a strong black & white im­age beau­ti­ful still ap­ply.

Few sit­u­a­tions in life are black & white; there’s a whole world of grey in- be­tween, and it’s the same for pho­tog­ra­phy. a mono­chrome im­age may con­tain ar­eas of near pure white and near pure black but it also has a wide scale of grey that has to de­liver con­trast for the im­age to have vis­ual im­pact. each spec­trum colour has its own shade of grey when con­verted to grayscale, and it’s im­por­tant to know what in­ten­si­ties of grey you’re work­ing with by learn­ing how to ‘ see’ tonal con­trast in a colour scene. this con­trast helps cre­ate shape, form and sep­a­rates el­e­ments in your im­age for depth, such as your sub­ject from its back­ground, to avoid the pho­to­graph look­ing flat and life­less. For in­stance, a lush green land­scape with cloud­less sky and a red barn as a fo­cal point may look vi­brant, but when turned to black & white it’ll prob­a­bly look flat with very lit­tle con­trast and in­ter­est be­tween the el­e­ments. Green and red can be very sim­i­lar shades, and a cloud­less blue sky will have lit­tle vari­ance in tone. switch your cam­era to shoot Mono­chrome ( see panel for how) and use Live­view to pre­view a scene; it’s a use­ful way to help you as­sess a com­po­si­tion based on a colour scene’s tonal­ity.

Whilst there are umpteen ways to con­vert an im­age to black & white dur­ing pro­cess­ing, not all im­ages suit a con­ver­sion and strong im­ages have to be­gin in your mind's eye. aside from us­ing Mono­chrome mode and Live­view, a way to vi­su­alise black & white is to look at the lines, shad­ows and shapes of a scene, this will give you an idea of the con­trast and if there’s enough vis­ual in­ter­est. Once you’ve then cap­tured your im­age in colour to re­tain max­i­mum in­for­ma­tion and flex­i­bil­ity with your raw file con­ver­sion, you can then use var­i­ous soft­ware and fil­ters to ad­just the tonal range for a strik­ing black & white con­ver­sion – turn to page 79 for a few of our rec­om­mended op­tions.

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