So I was recently challenged by a fellow Samsung Imagelogger, the talented portrait photographer Jess Anderson, to take the Black & White Photography Challenge. Basically, I had to post 5 black and white images in 5 days. Anyone that knows me or my work knows that color plays an enormous role in the images I choose to make, so this was definitely a bit intimidating. In addition to a few of my favorites from those recent 5 days, what follows are 5 things I learned and experienced in my little black & white journey. One thing that is immediately apparent is that once you lose the luxury of color, your mind shifts, and it has to. It's not as easy as just hitting the black & white tab in Lightroom or Photoshop or dropping saturation. You can't make images the way you've known and been used to and you are forced to focus on other aspects. The good news is, once the mind-shift happens, a whole new world that you may not have previously paid attention to, pops up into existence. It's really quite fascinating.
1. Contrast was HUGE! When you lose the ability to capture color as a main player in an image, you have to look at things completely different, and one of the top factors that can make for a good monochromatic image is contrast. Extreme contrast between shadows and highlights, light areas, dark areas, that's going to be the main player in the image, no matter the subject. The caveat to add here is that gloomy are also good days to shoot for black and white as well, as the contrast between subjects plays more of a role than the contrast between shadows and highlights. For example, a humanoid dressed in white standing against a dark wall.
2. Geometry! Pay attention to leading lines and shapes. They both seemed to play a huge role. If you can find lines that stand out, curves that are apparent through the scene, that is optimal. Additionally, keep an eye out for shapes. Squares, rectangles, triangles, circles, they all stand out in monochromatic situations when an eye is denied the ability to look for color.
3. Light, more than ever, is perhaps your most important player here. It's a fact that the brightest spot in the image is where the eye is naturally drawn to, so light that falls in between columns in a building, creating a striped pattern across someone's face, or just a single ray of light at the end of a dark alley falling on a person's face. You get the idea. Watch the light, where it's going, what it's doing, and know that mostly nothing in the shadowy areas is going to be the main subject or player in your image. It's what's going to be in that light.
4. ISO is of the utmost importance! Definitely try to shoot at the lowest ISO possible. I learned very quickly that when playing in contrast and with several dark areas in an image, noise is MUCH more apparent. Minimize the noise-reduction-plugin rabbit hole by shooting at as low an ISO as you can.
5. Minimalism can play a great role here. A few of my favorites from those 5 days use a LOT of negative space - the one with the birds and the one of the woman on the cliff edge overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean.
Bonus Tip: If your camera is capable, shoot in RAW. If you're used to shooting in JPEG, set it to shoot in RAW+JPEG, but you'll see how important having that extra RAW flexibility of adjusting shadows and highlights comes into play in post-processing when shooting for black and white. Trust me.
With that being said, I quite liked the challenge, and I thoroughly enjoyed shooting for black and white, so thank you for that Jess! Don't be surprised to see me post a few more monochrome images in the future.