Without color the components of visual design become that much more important. Look at the lines in the image. Are they horizontal? Vertical? Diagonal? Do they form a pattern? Rhythm or repeating elements in a photo are interesting, with a break in the repetition being even more interesting. Also look at the texture, shapes, and forms in the image. Concentrating on these will take your mind off the color and enhance your ability to “see” and think in monochrome.
~Joel Wolfson from his article Digital Black and White Photography Tips and Techniques
Here’s a run-down of the most common elements that you should look for when identifying a suitable subject for the black-and-white treatment. Remember that these elements can be used individually, or even combined to produce marvellous mono images with clout.
1. Contrast, shape & form
One of the fundamental aspects of black and white photography is that your whole composition relies on contrast (for on composing images, see our 10 rules of photo composition – and why they work). For this reason, look out for subjects that feature simple, strong lines and shapes. It’s often the shadows that define shape and form, so pay attention to areas of darkness, as well as light.
Black and white photos actually include a whole range of greys, which add subtlety to your images. Normally, you look for subjects that will translate into a range of tones from black to white, but you can also get great results where the subject is mostly light (high-key) or dark (low-key).
3. Texture and detail
Fine detail, or strong textures such as weather-beaten stone, foliage or clouds, can help to give your black-and-white shots depth and interest. Strong side lighting is perfect for bringing out the texture in any subject. You can use strong natural light, or get creative with flash to create sidelighting on the subject.
4. Graphic composition
Black-and-white images need strong compositions to really work. Keep an eye out for strong lines or features in your scene that can be used as leading lines, or positioned diagonally across the frame to create dynamic images.
~Black and White Photography: What Every Photographer Should Know
The one subject that will give you the best abstract images are flowers. Zoom in, macro or close up, and capture those delicate curves, arches, shapes and spirited colors, and bring them out in looming proportions and surreal dimensions. Crop out the edges, play with light, use selective focus or blur, present them in panoramic 16:9 aspect ratio or in tight 1:1 square format; you’ve got a lot of creative options in your toolbox. The approaches are yours to discover and experiment to come up with the best abstractions from nature’s little angels. Here are samples from my collection.
Have a great weekend everyone!
Look at the things around you, the immediate world around you. If you are alive, it will mean something to you, and if you care enough about photography, and if you know how to use it, you will want to photograph that meaningness. If you let other people’s vision get between the world and your own, you will achieve that extremely common and worthless thing, a pictorial photograph.~Paul Strand
There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.~Pablo Picasso
It’s probably just my art orientation. In my youth, when I start to paint using acrylic or watercolor, the first step would always be to visualize. With pencil I draw lines, shapes and form, then apply little by little layers of paint to come up with a color rendition. This trained me to see the bare structure, to look beyond the literal which helped a lot in my photography. I always see how things are in their most elemental form and how they are structured.
When I see a railroad track, I see lines. In trees I see silhouettes. In flowers I see shapes and a gamut of colors. In city scenes I see graphic forms, corners, hard edges, right angles. In nature I see reflections, soft and dreamy light, shadows and highlights. A subject will present to me something more than the actual. Such as the picture above, I see it as an exploding star. Some may say I’m just being imaginative. But I consider it a key element in photography. When you imagine and visualize how your subject will come out when photographed in a certain way (angle, lighting, perspective, framing, etc.), and take time and care to realize how it will be perceived, then there stems the root of your creativity. Imagination, artistry and creativity – they all work together.