What to Shoot in Black & White

Digital SLR Photography - - The Beginner ’s Guide -

Street Pho­tog­ra­phy there are some types of por­traits that can’t be con­trolled: street pho­tog­ra­phy re­quires you to seek out ways of cap­tur­ing peo­ple as they go about their daily lives. street pho­tog­ra­phy is raw doc­u­men­tary sto­ry­telling, which is why mono­chrome suits it so well, but you have to look for ar­eas of light and dra­matic shad­ows to el­e­vate your im­ages from the realms of ‘ snap­shot’. street lamps at night, re­flected light off glass build­ings or strong back­light­ing for sil­hou­ettes are all ex­tremely pop­u­lar op­tions.

high- key a bright back­light, bright skin tones and light- coloured cloth­ing, with per­haps even a cou­ple of stops of pos­i­tive ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion for good mea­sure, and you’ve got the mak­ings of a high- key im­age. it’s im­per­a­tive that you use your his­togram to check for de­tail be­ing lost in the high­lights when shoot­ing this style of im­age, but fill­ing a scene with light and rid­ding it of any hard shad­ows can cre­ate some amaz­ing mono­chrome im­ages, es­pe­cially of women and ba­bies, where soft­ness is a vis­ual virtue.

Low- key Im­ages with pre­dom­i­nantly dark tones are called low- key and gen­er­ally con­tain ar­eas with a lot of dense shadow. Whilst dark mid­tones and shad­ows are the crux of this style, in ac­tual fact light­ing is never more im­por­tant. The place­ment of high­lights, al­though min­i­mal, sculpts the im­age and help sep­a­rate el­e­ments and re­veal de­tails. It’s a great tech­nique for nudes: care­fully placed high­lights ca­ress curves em­pha­sis­ing the all- im­por­tant shape and form, but the deep shad­ows stop too much be­ing re­vealed to pre­serve mod­esty.

Shadow play Us­ing high­lights and shadow to sculpt peo­ple’s fea­tures is one thing, but you can also use it as a fea­ture unto it­self to cre­ate dy­namic and in­ter­est­ing por­traits. Shape cre­ators such as vene­tian blinds or sten­cils in front of a small light source can de­liver strong, con­cen­trated light with shaped shad­ows. Vary its dis­tance from the light to af­fect the strength and clar­ity of the shad­ows casts. Back­light­ing a per­son is also a great graphic style for mono­chrome; shoot with multi- zone me­ter­ing and you'll cast them into sil­hou­ette.

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