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Have you ever noticed how some black and white photos just stand out? And when you go to try and take the same kind of photo it just doesn’t do the same thing?
There are a couple of starting pointers that I want to share with you about black and white photography with a digital camera. The first thing I can tell you is that to make a good black and white photo you must have good texture. Texture, or what something is made of, seems to be enhanced with grey scale.
Certain textures, such as natural textures seem to respond well in black and white. Black and white is all about capturing a sense of the dramatic, so if your subject has texture that is naturally dramatic, then you have the first step to a good b&w photo. Textures such as wood grain, stark metal, repeated patterns in nature such as waves or spirals seem to work well in black and white.
With black and white, try to keep some symmetry in your texture. Its easier to create stunning black and white photos when you have symmetry in your texture because it can sometimes be lost in color. Symmetrical textures in black and white are consistently beautiful and offer something the eye cannot capture as well when working in color.
Grey scale is not just the absence of color, or everything taken in shades of grey. To understand and master black and white photography with your digital you must understand the concept of grey scale.
Grey scale is a spectrum of black, lots of grey and white, like the colours of a rainbow but in a series of black and white and grey tones. You see a black and white photo is not really only black and white; it is actually lots of different shades and different depths of grey. So when we talk about grey scale it just means the way we measure tones of grey. Included in the grey scale is of course black and white.
This sounds odd to say, but when finding what looks good in black and white you can start with high contrasting colors in your every day subjects at home. Stark colours such as red, deep purples and bright yellows can make a really good starting point. With bold colours such as these, your camera will interpret them differently. It’s almost as if the camera leaves out what the eye distinguishes as that particular color and keeps the intensity there. I won’t go into the technical jargon now, but for now, just try experimenting on those colors. If you can’t find these colors around your home, try going out into the garden and taking flowers that have these colors, or go to a nursery, plant store or public gardens.
You see black and white is not just ‘no colour’. Its so much more, so much deeper then that. The purpose of black and white nowadays (as opposed to when it was the standard and people had no choice) is that it creates a sense of stillness in time, and with the right perspective, a great story.
UPDATE: Learn more about Black and White Photography with our new Essential Guide to Black and White Photography.