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120513 Super-feature: black and white photography

Revenant Revenant 1029 posts

Monochrome photography super feature

“Colour photography is good for the eye; black and white photography is good for the soul”

DSLRs and monochrome photography have been considered poor bedfellows. Black and white photography is often the last bastion of anyone wishing to claim the superiority of film over digital. Most of us would agree this is a sterile debate, but the truth is that black and white photography is a demanding, exacting genre. Luckily, the Full Frame group boasts some masters of monochrome. I therefore decided to do a “super feature” of B&W works and asked some of our members to contribute their thoughts, to which I also add a few of my own.

I hope you enjoy this super feature and that it prompts you to go out and experiment. As usual, all images are clickable and take you to the relevant posts.


This from Waiting for Rain

Most of my works are Black and White. The main reason of this is isolation – isolation the main subject of our attention from the colors of the world around us. When we shot expression or emotion – we are don’t shot a colors of clothes. I always shot in RAW format and always convert to BW in Photoshop or Lightroom. The best way to convert to Black and White is Channel Mixer in Photoshop. Never Desaturate or Grayscale your works !

“Can see the music”, “Jerusalem streets walker” and “Moment of take-off”


This from John Holding


“All lines point”

Why black and white in preference to colour? Well it all depends upon the statement that you want to make. Which leads to what type of black and white, does it have black blacks and white whites with little tonal range or are you after a full tonal range with the complete set of greys.
For example, in this shot because the whole shot is around the lines and the illuminated sign at the end anything else is really a distraction and does not add to the picture. To achieve this I have used the ability of black and white to decrease the tonal range to the minimum. In fact much is now hidden in the dark, including other people walking in the car park.

It is this ability to move the tonal range to achieve a statement that keeps black and white photography alive and vibrant. Some will say that black and white must be crisp blacks and whites, however I suggest that it is up to the interpretation that you as the artists wants to put on the work. Experiment, try different tonal ranges until you get a shot that speaks for you.


“Dandelion Abstract”

Here is an example of soft greys and a more complete tonal range, one can see how the use of tonal range with minimal blacks produces a softness and delicacy that would be missing if it had been produced the same as the shot above. It just would not work the same. A strong black and white image may be striking but it would not be soft and delicate and therefore reflect the delicate nature of the dandelion. However it still comes back to what the artist is trying to say. Neither is right or wrong; it is just a particular statement.


This from Arni Katz

Black and White Photography Now

I have been a working photographer since 1972. The craft photography has changed dynamically as the digital age matures. Some changes are for the better, some not. The increasing automation of cameras afford even a Chimpanzee the opportunity of taking a presentable photograph.

The positive side that using RAW file data and crafting each image with absolutely amazing tools, undreamed of 10 years ago, will deliver images that are evocative and breathtaking.

As space is limited in this forum I refrain from elaborating in detail regarding all the options. The data and tools are there for all. Much is free or very affordable.

Good shooting!


Day Sixty-three, Day Fifty-eight and Day thirty-seven


This from me

I believe you have to begin by thinking in monochrome for a successful work. The genre is particularly unforgiving in terms of composition and lighting errors and extremely satisfying when you get them right. As post-processing is necessary to convert to mono, I have to envisage work as a black and white image from the outset. I have tried to salvage my bad technical calls with a hail-mary mono conversion and sometimes successfully, but the monochrome works that please me most were conceived as such before I captured the image. Some shots instantly suggest themselves as monochromes or split-tone images. Generally, these tend to be images where the emotion I want is conveyed primarily through texture.

All our cameras include in-camera B&W settings, a gimmick that I believe should be resolutely ignored. Always convert a colour capture in post-processing. And now for my standard beef with the bubble: the glaring off-white background in RB doesn’t do black & white imagery any favours. Pester those nice people at RB Tech to be able to customise it.


Detail from “ceci n’est vraiment pas une tortue”, “The man reading Darwin” and “Reaching for the cookie jar”


This from Ed Lark

The more I immerse myself into the world of digital images, the more I reflect on and appreciate my background in film. I enjoyed my black and white darkroom for years. The burning and dodging, the magic of watching the image appear and most of all, the amount of work involved in fine tuning an image to get the results I wanted. Rich tonal range was always my goal. I approach my digital images similarly. I use Adobe Lightroom 4 and, rather than use a lot of presets, I like to take my time to work each image. Of course this method is easier in that I am not doing it for a living! Right now most of my work is in colour, but, I am having a great deal of fun recalling the richness of black and white. I hope you enjoy my work.

“Door stops” and “Ta Da!”

Maree Cardinale Maree Cardinale 1980 posts

Congratulations everyone, the images are beautiful.
I love B&W.
I find my eye processes them differently to colour.
I see more detail and eagerly seek out the smaller details.
With colour I tend to see them more as a whole.
Maree