Join Natalie Fobes for an in-depth discussion in this video Black and white, part of The Elements of Effective Photographs.
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I love black-and-white photography. It's all I shot for years. I learned to see in black and white while watching an old black-and-white TV set in my living room. I discovered how different colors translate into different shades of gray. Do you remember the colors of these folders? The conversion may not be quite what you expect. The blues are lighter, the reds are darker, and in the old days of film, we adjusted for this with filters. For example, to darken a blue sky, we would use the yellow or red filter.
Now, this is still possible if you choose to capture in a black-and-white mode of your digital camera. But you know what? With digital photography you can turn any photograph into a black-and-white image simply by adjusting the saturation in your processing software. So for this reason, I recommend that you shoot RAW in color to have the maximum flexibility when you process your images. The question you should ask yourself though is, why do you want your photo in black and white? Here are some of the reasons I choose black-and-white.
The message in my photograph will have much more impact. This photograph is so striking that I think color would've gotten in the way. The lighting is so bad that it distracts from the image. Evenly lit florescent rooms are a killer. The textures and shapes will support the composition and add interest. The texture of the ivy contrasts very nicely with that of the doll's face. Another reason is that the treatment will add artistic value to the final print.
This looked, felt, and smelt like a scene from the 1940s. Now if you're going to convert your images to black and white, there are some things you should consider when you're shooting. Black-and-white photos can be made under any light, but you will probably be a bit more successful if you shoot in soft light without intense shadows, like on a cloudy day or after sunset or before sunrise. But please, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that high-contrast light never produces great black and white--it does.
This shot was taken at 3 in the afternoon. You just have to make sure that your exposure gives you details in the shadows without overexposing the highlights. So now that we've talked about the why, let's talk about the how. In the next video I will show you some ways to convert your RAWs to black and white.
The course explores compositional elements that guide a viewer's eye, including the rule of thirds; leading lines, patterns, and curves; and depth of field. Natalie then details the roles of color and light in a photo. She shows how to work with the natural light in a room or outdoor location, and how to enhance it using reflectors, newspapers, a T-shirt, or whatever might be handy. She also shows some simple indoor lighting setups that can replicate the look of natural light.
The course continues with a look at movement and how a photographer can convey a sense of motion by blurring part of the image or freezing a fast-moving subject. Next, Natalie explores the concepts of peak action and the decisive moment—those split seconds that capture the essence or emotion of a subject or scene. The course wraps up with a discussion of the roles of planning and research in creating effective photos.