What to look for while you are framing your shot
Understanding how the subject is going to translate into black and white is vital for producing successful mono images. Here are the principles that will help…
Whil e many photography skills are similar for both black-andwhite and colour shots, such as strong composition and understanding how the light is falling on the subject, that doesn’t mean it’s simply a case of shooting the same subjects and converting them from colour to mono. Subjects that rely on colour for their mood or impact will often be less successful in black and white. Instead of looking at the colours in a scene, try to picture how the different tones, details and graphic elements in the subject will work together to produce a strong composition. But remember too that the image that you capture can be simply a starting point: with some simple image manipulation, you can enhance and alter the relationships of the tones in the final image.
There are many factors that can influence this result, but the most important thing to look out for is a main subject or structure in the image that will stand out from the background. Along with the main subject, it’s often the shadows that define the structure of the composition in black and white, so pay particular attention to these.
So, look for contrasts of light and dark that will give the image a strong structure, and you’ll be on the right track. You can then try to include more subtle elements of detail, tones, form and texture to add depth and interest.
1 CAPTURe LIG HT
Understanding how the quality and direction of the light falling on your subject will affect the final image is vital for successful mono images. Shooting into the light will produce dramatic results, while side-lighting can help enhance shape and form.
2 CAPTURE SHAPES
Without colour, it’s often the shape of an object that defines it. Look for subjects with an outline that creates strong shapes against the background; this is easier if the tones of the subject contrast with the background.
3 CAPTURE TONE
Along with the more graphic elements, black-and-white is also a great medium for capturing subtle variations in tone. Understanding how different colours will appear as tones in the final image is the key to ‘seeing’ in black and white.
4 CAPTURE MOOD
From dark and brooding to light and airy, the lack of colour in black-and-white images is ideal for enhancing mood. This can be enhanced by selectively darkening or lightening different areas of the image using dodging and burning.
5 CAPTURE TE XTURE
From the jagged surface of stone to the delicate detail of hair, texture is a key element for many black-and-white images. This can be used as part of a larger composition, or as the main subject. Side-lighting can help to bring out this texture.
6 CAPTURE CONTRAST
The contrast of bright highlights and dark shadows is perfect for creating striking images. Although your attention is drawn by the brightest areas, it’s the shadows that often create the strongest contrast. This works best with simple subjects.
7 CAPTURE FORM
Form is the three-dimensional shape of a subject. It is created by subtle variations in shading, from light tones to shadows. These are at their greatest when the light source is to one side of the subject.
8 CAPTURE PATTERNS
Repeating patterns make a great subject for black-and-white. The key to capturing these is simplicity, so try to exclude any areas of the scene that distract from the impact by getting in close or using a long-focal-length lens.