The current Readers Photo Challenge assignment issued last week is black and white. Many of today’s digital cameras have a setting to make them shoot in a colorless mode, German camera manufacturer even has a digital model that shoots black and white exclusively. There are free apps that you can get for your cellphone for black and white photography. But to get a good black and white photo it takes more than buying a certain kind of camera or flicking a switch. You have to learn to “see” in black and white.
We all see in color but there isn’t button to press to make our eyes see colorlessly or special glasses to covert the scene in to black and white (although it would be helpful if there were). One has to learn to see in tones and shades rather than in color. For instance, red and green are two distinct and opposite colors. In color, a red rose will visually pop out against a field of green leaves. But in black and white, those two colors are the same shade of grey. The rose will dully blend in almost indistinguishably with the surrounding leaves. A bright blue sky in color can turn to a slate grey or even a night-like black in black and white depending on the lighting.
A black and white photo should have clean whites and deep inky blacks but also gradations of grey in between. You need to work on trying to ignore color and concentrate on composition, shape, tone and light, especially light. Flat light certainly uninteresting in a color photograph but in black and white picture it can be the kiss of death. Consider sidelight or even back light to make the scene more visually interesting.
You can set out to look for black and white photos when your out shooting or look through color pictures that you’ve already shot and convert them but either way, if you learn to see in black and white, you’ll get the best out of your colorless images.
There is one week left until the challenge deadline. Here are the rules:
1. Entries can be emailed to email@example.com. Type in “BW” in the subject line.
2. Photos have to be shot between April 2 and April 23. The can be of any subject but they must be in black and white.
3. Include your name (first and last), hometown, and the kind of camera/lens you used and where it was taken (ie: “John Doe, Stockton. Pool Station Road and Highway 49, San Andreas. Canon EOS Rebel Ti with 18-55mm lens”)
4. If there is a recognizable person in the photo, please identify them (name, age, hometown) and what they are doing in the photos.
5. Please feel free to include any interesting anecdotes or stories on how you took the picture.
6. The deadline for submission is Thursday, April 23. The top examples will be published on Thursday, Feb. 30 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day.