Before committing myself to learning the art of photography I had a fairly rudimentary understanding of black and white. I thought of it as a style, like a cute pencil skirt. "Oh this looks nice, I'll wear it tomorrow".
Black and white conversions can definitely be a signature aspect of one's style but the decision to convert an image shouldn't be made in post processing. It should be made long before you touch your camera.
I tinkered with different actions, gradient maps, and RAW conversions before learning on the Clickin' Moms* forum that the strength of a black and white image often hinges on pre shoot planning and the quality of light.
Dynamic lighting, strong compositions, interesting lines and textures, and vision are all necessary elements of a good black and white photo.
Avoid flat light. Pre-plan and conceptualize your shot when possible. Seek out leading lines and visually appealing textures. Use your creativity and pre-planning to push your vision from your mind to the photo.
It isn't easy. I'm struggling but I've come a long way. I get it now. Black and white conversions can be used to hide uncomplimentary colors, technical photo flaws, and bad lighting but those images are not usually the stunners.
I want stunners.
Reading Creative Black and White: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques* was a game changer for me. I highly recommend it. It's taught me how to look for look and create the right type of visual interest for a strong black and white image. I'm only a 1/4 of the way through but am already putting techniques to work.
Here are some examples.
Bad black and white candidate. Flat lighting. Uncreative and uninteresting composition. Looks muddy around the face. Finger chop.
Great lighting and good tonal range. Nice connection. Better composition. Much more dynamic photo.
I used the same post processing techniques on both photos. Can you see the difference? It's incredible what a little planning and use of good light can do.
Here are some great links I found about black and white conversions for you to check out.
- Thoughts on converting to Black & White
- Processing Black & White images
- Mastering the Art of Black & White Photography
Next week I'll post my review of the portfolio review Stacie Turner conducted for me last week. She and I discussed my black and white struggles. I've made progress since our conversation. The review was incredible and really helped set me in the right direction for where I'd like to head next in my photographic journey. I can't wait to tell you all more.
OH! Don't you guys forget to enter the photography giveaway. It ends soon and I'd really like to make it huge to show my awesome sponsors some love. Would love your support. Please share and tell your friends.
Lastly, how can I help you? I'm no Ansel Adams but love to pay it forward. Leave questions, tips, or comments below.
What do you find most challenging about black and white photography?