Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Learning to See in Black and White

by Kelly

Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler. ~Albert Einstein

I have a confession to make…when I found out that this month’s FOL theme was black and white, I wasn’t all that excited.  Because to be honest, black and white photography has never been my favorite.  You see, I am a color girl.  I love color.  I love living with and being around color. I invite color into my world with my gardens and the choices I make in my home decor.  I like wearing color.  I love colorful food….yes indeed, color makes me happy.

Well, I did a little bit of research about color, and as it turns out, there is a whole field of study regarding the psychology of color.  According to psychology.about.com:
‘Artists and interior designers have long understood how color can dramatically affect moods, feelings and emotions. It is a powerful tool and can be used to signal action, influence mood, and cause physiological reactions. Certain colors can raise blood pressure, increase metabolism, or cause eyestrain.’
So now when you think about how color pertains to photography and then you go and remove this emotional connection to a photo through color, you then are able to see the photo more subjectively.  Which I think is exactly the point black and white photography…the subject.

I know for myself, whenever I am shooting a subject, knowing in the back of my mind that it will be in black and white, it forces me to slow down and be more mindful of my composition.  Truly, shooting in black and white is a great exercise for practicing some of the basic compositional concepts such as line and shape, and texture and repetition.

The other cool thing about black and white photography is that without the distraction of  color, subtle details almost seem to come alive.

In preparing photos for this blog post, I found that light and shadow were key in defining shapes and bringing out details.  The contrast between the lights and darks – the tonality – really makes a black and white photo stand out.

And surprisingly, to me anyway, I also found that black and white portraits can particularly beautiful in a raw, honest kind of way.  Without the distraction of hair and eye color or the tones in the background, the personality of the subject shines through and you can really get a sense of who they are.

Finally, black and white photos seem to tell a story from a different perspective…free of the emotional connections we all have to color.   I think that's what I am learning to love in black and white images...the freedom...the simplicity.  Something I know I could use a little more of in my own life and have enjoyed pursuing in black and white.

So tell us…what do you enjoy about black and white photography? What do you look for when shooting in black and white?  And please continue sharing your beautiful images in our FOL Flickr group.

All the best, Kelly


Dotti said...

You have stated the case beautifully, Kelly, and everything you say is absolutely right. As one 'color gal' to another, I get it. I find shooting in B&W a real challenge but it really does help us become better photographers. And, oh! The drama it can create. You did a masterful job here and the portrait of your daughter is stunning. I hear a canvas calling its name, yearning to be hung on a wall in your house.

Carrie Bump said...

Fantastic JOB!! and Dotti I agree! That pic of Kelsey SCREAMS canvas!! Love the color too but Black and whites are my favorite.

Focusing on Life said...

For someone who dislikes B/W, you sure do it well! These are beautiful images!! Inspiring!. I also love color - but I think of B/W as a whole different exploration

http://vivhalliwell.com said...

I love the the ability to create soft and hard tones in black and white so versatile....

CarolHart said...

Great post and wonderful images!

heyjudephotography said...

Your images are stunning, and I'm so glad that you have learned just how beautiful black and white can be!

terriporter said...

Another "color addict" here but I am learning to appreciate b&w as I go. Your images sure make a good case for the fact that they can be just as beautiful, and sometimes more so, than the same image in color. Thank goodness for the digital age where we can decide after the fact, but shooting knowing you are going to convert definitely makes you look at things differently. I usually look for high contrast when I know I'm going to want to convert my shot to b&w. Definitely get that shot of Kelsey on a canvas! Great post, Kelly!

augcott said...

Great captures.
B&W is simply beautiful!

Cathy H. said...

Beautiful images! Some of my favorite photos I've taken are B&W! Your right, in B&W you definitely focus on the subject without the distractions of color!

Carol said...

PS that Focusing on life comment above was little old ME (Carol A.)

Yang Fei said...

Colour is so strong and evokes such response from us, that it can often over power the other components of an image. I think that is why a black and white photo often seems to bring out the detail that we would not notice if the same image were presented in colour.
Appreciating black and white photography is, I think, akin to appreciate a foliage garden. While the extravagant colours of a flower filled garden are intoxicating there is a wonderful subtle and calm beauty to be found in a garden without those intense colours where the variety of texture and shape of the foliage becomes the focus of our attention.

Sarah Huizenga said...

I will admit I am not much of a black and white shooter either, but you made an interesting point about focusing on composition. A good exercise for me to work on.

Anonymous said...

I love colour but struggle with it sometimes because I love serenity and simplicity in images, and too much disorganized colour seems frenetic and disorienting to me. But an image that drives me crazy in colour can be quite soothing in black and white. I also love images with strong lines, shapes and shadows in black and white. And street photography (a la Cartier Bresson) and portraits (a la Karsh) can be unforgettable. Your b and ws are very compelling, Kelly.

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