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Friday, September 1, 2006

Shoot Digital For B & W

Discover the monochrome world using your digital camera

Light, Tone And Shape

Not every color image looks good as a black-and-white photograph. Though there are qualities that both share, such as lighting and composition, there are certain intrinsic elements that are essential for a quality black-and-white photograph. Lighting, in a color or black-and-white photograph, often makes or breaks an image. But unlike some color images that can retain your interest based solely on the presence of vibrant, saturated colors, a good black-and-white image is rooted in the quality of light. Though you wouldn't have the benefit of the rich color of warm, late-afternoon light in a black-and-white image, the direction of that same light, positioned low on the horizon, could be used to enhance contrast—the linchpin of many a great monochrome image.

It's the contrast of tones and often the gradual transitions from dark to light in the landscape that help create a powerful image. The human eye is drawn to areas of greatest contrast. This tendency helps each photographer shape an image so that the viewer's eye is controlled and directed to those specific areas of the image the photographer considers important.

Shape and patterns are also common elements found in many black-and-white photographs. From the repeating patterns in a stand of aspens or the shape of rocks along a shoreline, these qualities become powerful visual effects. Without the presence of color, it's the basic structure of natural objects that become the focus of a photograph.

Seeing In Black-And-White

Unlike black-and-white film, which has to be processed in order to see the images, many digital cameras now provide immediate black-and-white results. This is because digital cameras often have a black-and-white mode that records and displays the monochrome image on the camera's LCD.

Though there are advantages to shooting in color and converting to black-and- white later in your photo-editing software, using the black-and-white mode of your camera can be a first entry into learning how to see the world in shades of gray. By shooting a scene in color and then in black-and-white, you can immediately discover how certain colors, tones and textures appear in a monochrome photograph. As you do this more and more, you'll soon be able to evaluate the natural world around you in black-and-white terms without bringing the camera to your eye.

One of the fun things about some digital cameras is that they also include filter settings in their black-and-white modes. The cameras have the equivalent of contrast filters, such as red, orange, yellow and green filters. A yellow filter setting slightly darkens blue colors, resulting in darker, more dramatic skies. A green filter is ideal when shooting foliage, as it lightens greens but darkens blues and reds. And a red filter darkens greens and dramatically lightens reds. Using these contrast filters is a great way for learning how filtration, whether in the camera or after-the-fact in Photoshop, dramatically increases or decreases contrast.


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