Get great mono re­sults every time you shoot.

Practical Photography (UK) - - Magical Mono -

AS WE HAVE AL­READY SEEN, there is much more to black & white pho­tog­ra­phy than a sim­ple lack of colour, and equally there is much more to tak­ing a great mono shot than sim­ply de­sat­u­rat­ing an image you shot in colour.

In the days of film, most stu­dents of pho­tog­ra­phy would spend at least a year shoot­ing noth­ing but black & white be­fore be­ing let loose on colour emul­sion, and there’s noth­ing like mono for hon­ing your skills in the un­der­stand­ing of light, con­trast, shape and tex­ture.

See in monochrome

Stripped of a rain­bow pal­ette, the black & white image lacks the power of com­ple­men­tary and op­pos­ing colours to bring a scene to life. In­stead, it is nec­es­sary to look for tonal con­trast in or­der to make your mono shots stand out. Where, in a colour photo, the viewer’s eye might be drawn to a red ob­ject set against a sea of green, those two el­e­ments might have very sim­i­lar tonal qual­i­ties in black & white. The monochrome shooter must look for shades of light and dark within a scene in or­der to present an image with a strong tonal range. This can be achieved ei­ther by look­ing for ar­eas of nat­u­ral bright­ness – for in­stance, the bark of sil­ver birch trees will con­trast sharply with a dark

for­est scene, or through the way that the light hit­ting a scene cre­ates ar­eas of bright­ness and shadow.

It is pos­si­ble to train your eye to ‘see’ a scene in black & white, but un­til it be­comes sec­ond-na­ture a good tip is to set your cam­era to out­put both RAW and JPEG, with the in-cam­era pro­cess­ing set to monochrome so you can re­view the image in the way it will ul­ti­mately ap­pear. Some cam­eras can give a black & white out­put in Live View, which will be a huge help when shoot­ing for mono.

Em­brace light & tex­ture

Every great shot is de­pen­dant upon light, and in mono pho­tog­ra­phy it’s even more crit­i­cal. Bright, sun­lit days will pro­duce a black & white image that’s full of con­trast, but it can be very easy to have your high­lights blow out on you. In these con­di­tions it is best prac­tice to ex­pose for the high­lights as you can gen­er­ally tease out de­tail in the shad­ows, while the con­trast with the dark ar­eas will add to the tonal qual­ity of the shot.

When con­di­tions are over­cast there’s the dan­ger of your mono shots com­ing out in flat shades of grey with lit­tle con­trast. This is the time to make use of black & white pho­tog­ra­phy’s abil­ity to bring out the best in tex­tured sub­jects.

Left Tex­tures can be teased out of the shad­ows in a RAW file to make mono land­scapes re­ally stand out.

Above When shot in high con­trast con­di­tions, black & white im­ages can pro­duce won­der­fully stark and graphic re­sults.

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