Capturing Life with Light in Black & White
They grace museums, mansions, and CEO offices. From classic and chic to edgy and post-modern, photographs in black and white have long captured our wonder and imaginations. They cause us to look at our world from a fresh and unique perspective. Thanks to this digital age, we can all try our hand at grayscale photography without the meticulous process of darkroom developing.
Before you pull out the digital camera or your smartphone, here are some tips and techniques to ensure that your monochrome images are all that they can be:
- Contrast and texture are the secret to a stellar black and white photograph—but the key is to avoid combinations that may wash each other out. A multi-colored sunset is breathtaking in person with its varied palette of color, but that same sunset captured in black and white can very easily turn into a gloomy mix of grays.
- Shapes and patterns take on a whole new dimension when photographing in black and white. What might look like a busy urban skyline of your favorite big city turns into a dramatic high contrast image with sharp geometric lines by switching to grayscale.
- Filters are your friends. Whether you shoot SLR, digital, or from your smartphone, filters—such as neutral density (ND) and circumpolarizing (CPL)—are specifically designed to compensate for haze and glare, resulting in dramatic increase in saturation and contrast which can mean the difference between a ho-hum image and a truly outstanding one.
- There’s an app for that! If you’re taking pics with your smartphone on the fly—the birthplace of many award-winning photographs in the past few years—then visit the app store and check out the top-rated photo manipulation applications to bring out the best in your cellphone captures.
- Let there be less light. A generalized brightness will wash out the natural beauty in your monochromatic photos so fast it will leave you scratching your head. To compensate, try shooting earlier in the day or later in the afternoon. When photographing in black and white, it’s important to note that directional light adds depth and character—as well as shadows—that can turn what might be a generic picture in color, into an edgy monochromatic masterpiece
- The rule of thirds doesn’t stay home because you’re not photographing in color. When calculated and applied to dead space (areas of all black or all white) or when photographing highly geometrical scenes or subjects, you will be astounded how a seemingly simple image turns into a trendy work of art.
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