A visual story without color

A picture is a story conveyed in a single shot. That solo frame of an image is a narrative summarized through meticulous capture, execution and presentation. On seeing an image, composing and arranging the elements and subject, we hope for a reaction. And one of the first things that trigger reaction is colors – how it is effectively presented and utilized. Colors create mood and character, and highlight subjects. Strip away colors and what do you have to evoke reaction from your viewers? How will you incorporate mood and character in an image whose primary element of color is missing? How will you tell your story, your message in black and white?


The art of story telling in a single image is hard enough, more so in the absence of color. Liken this to peeling away the layer of color and exposing the innards which are the structure and form. We literally return to the basics, such as:

1. Find the lines and there are many of them: the straight line, horizontal and vertical, the diagonal line., the broken line, the jagged line, the leading lines, and the curves.

2. Find patterns, textures and shapes. Color can be disorienting and confusing. A pattern of contrasting and playful colors is fun. Take away color and you have repetitions of light, shades and shadows. You can highlight outlines and shapes with light and darkness. You can use side lighting on a surface, whether rough or fine, for textures to come out.

3. Let your black be black and let your white be white. But if your read the previous post “The math in monochrome,” we learned that 000 is pure black and 255 is pure white, which means that there are 254 shades of grey in between. Effectively apply greys in your image through the tonal adjustment feature in your editing software. Tones define details, add depth and establish mood.

4. Go for low key or high key lighting. An image enveloped in soft white light, or plunged into subtle darkness creates character. This creative light technique will always add drama and impact on an image.

My primer and principle in photography is right there at the top of the sidebar. You have probably come across it several times. It is that every image you take is a story. You should be true to your art and tell your story well whether in color or, more importantly so because of its characteristic, in black and white.


6 responses

  1. Wonderful image..

    March 10, 2013 at 9:53 am

    • Junsjazz

      Thank you so much Helen! Best regards!~JJ

      March 10, 2013 at 11:33 am

  2. petit4chocolatier

    Love it!

    March 10, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    • Junsjazz

      Thanks always Judy!

      March 10, 2013 at 11:09 pm

  3. Great advice. thanks for sharing.

    March 10, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    • Junsjazz

      Thank you too dmg! regards!

      March 10, 2013 at 11:10 pm

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