For this week’s Lens Artists Photo Challenge #156, Anne from Slow Shutter Speed asks us to feature Black & White photos and talk about the workflow behind creating the images.
Why Black & White?
Go to any Photography site and you’ll find a list of reasons why Black & White photography is a good thing. Many of them recommend taking photos with intent, switching the camera to monochrome and actively selecting scenes with shadows and light. Well, I won’t pretend to have that expertise. Normally, I just deal with the specifics of a particular work set and experiment.
This particular set of photos is from a model shoot in Cuba. During the shoot I took all my pictures in color but saved them in RAW format. This is what I always do since 1) I don’t have the discipline to decide on treatment beforehand and 2) RAW files allow for maximum flexibility in post-processing.
Throughout the shoot, I took what I thought were good pictures. My focus was always on composition. I looked for emotive angles and unusual perspectives. Later though, when I viewed the shots in Lightroom, I was sorely disappointed. While some photos were good, many were not. A recurring issue was color.
In this example, both I and the model were lying down on the floor of an outdoor patio. I was intrigued by the angle and curves of the model and spent lots of time positioning the shot. So much so that I forgot to look at the background.
Here you can see how much the colors in the background compete with each other. The geometric colors on wall contrast with the organic greens in garden. On the model, her vivid orange dress adds to the distraction. Everything in the top half of the photo grabs the eye and forces it to look at the edges of the frame. To my mind, the color photo looks terribly unbalanced.
Switching to black & white has an immediate effect. The confusion of color disappears. The background is neutralized and the dress becomes texture. Suddenly, the eye is drawn to the model and not the background.
Elsewhere on location, there was a hut made with rough hewn planks and painted a light blue. I had an idea to play with color and offset the orange of her dress against the blue wood. It’d be a contrast of primary and secondary opposites on the color wheel.
In this case, I was pleased with both color and monochrome treatments. In color the contrast in blue & orange seems fresh and bright. In monochrome the distinction is in texture, the knots and whorls of the wood contrasting with the model’s skin tones.
In cases like the last picture, how then to decide on treatment? It depends on the context. At a certain point, I stop looking at pictures as singles and see them as parts of a whole. When looking at a collection, I care about consistency.
If I pull together a gallery of photos for a post, I usually stick to either all-color or all-monochrome. In my opinion, nothing is more visually jarring than a mixture of color & monochrome pictures on a page. Even if a photo looks better in color than monochrome, if it’s part of collection and all the other photos are monochrome, I’ll use it in monochrome.
Of course, there’s always exceptions to the rule. Sometimes a mixture is important. This post is an example 😉
I hope you found this interesting. I’ve been working on a collection of photos made from this model session. In my next post, I’ll share that with you, so stay tuned!