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Breaking down black and white

I’ve been spending some time lately thinking about why I’m so drawn to black and white images. The magnetism seems to come from the simplicity found in the lighting and composition that excellent B/W imagery possess. In regards to composition, our minds are freed from the distraction of color so composition is so important as it’s often the driving force of the photograph. When intentionally creating B/W images our thought process is simplified to thinking in terms of shadows, midtones, and highlights. I’m a self taught photographer but I know that more formal photography education (art schools, universities) options often make students take B/W film classes as a foundation in their journey to becoming a photographer.

Getting back to lighting, my favorites B/W images always seem to have a silvery quality to them. I’m still working on putting into words exactly what that means but it has to do with the harshness (or lack thereof) of the actual blacks and whites. The midtones, highights, and shawdows seem to flow into one another. Two of my favorite photographers (Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson) were masters of the achieving this feel so be sure to dig into their work.

This image was created yesterday in a river near my hometown. The day was a mixture of sun and clouds so we had to be patient in order to get the diffused light I needed to achieve the look I wanted. I knew with my model’s fair skin and the darkness of the water we were on to something - once the clouds rolled in the softness of light pulled everything together.

I hope this post has your wheels spinning about approaching B/W images. As always leave comments below with your thoughts and questions!

Black and white underwater professional photographs

Stacy Freeman Smith - June 16, 2014 - 7:29 pm