Mono Portrait Expert
Andrew Farrington on tones
“When I first set eyes on David Bailey’s black & white portraits from the late sixties, I felt an urge to emulate the simple yet intense familiarity which they exuded. At the same time, I had no inkling of the work of Julia Margaret Cameron from almost 100 years prior, which would go on to influence me even more. I quickly found that the Bailey ‘look’ had as much to do with people skills as it did with the technique of photography and that Margaret Cameron was most probably the opposite of that.
“When I take a photograph of anything, I treat it like a portrait – an investigation, or insight into what is in front of me. Shooting in black & white can strip away the reality and render form as a simpler visual matrix. You can almost view a face as a landscape or conversely, a view of rolling hills and clouds as the intermingled shapes and forms of hair and skin – put colour into these two scenarios and at once, hue comes to the fore and pushes us into a different realm.
“Of course, colour is important, but the ability to shape it as tone allows us a further dimension that twisting colours doesn’t. The garish hues of HDR, for example, already appear hackneyed, a cheap get-out clause from poor composition or technique.
“The joy of digital, for me, is the ability to see in black & white and to have an immediate response to changes in colour temperature and the rendering in tone of what is before me. I mainly use an Olympus PEN-F which has a ‘Creative Dial’ on the front of the body – this allows infinite adjustment of the tone-curve and filter combinations, not to mention the addition of texture via the addition of ‘grain’ should it be felt necessary.
“It’s now possible to go for a walk with an emulation of virtually any black & white film ever produced, or ‘roll your own’ using the fantastic software available.
“It’s interesting to note that during my time doing lectures and workshops, that the majority of younger students and attendees prefer to shoot in black & white – that says a lot about the longevity of shades of grey.”
Andrew is a multi award-winning pro shooter with an enviable client list that includes the BBC. instagram.com/andrewphoto