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.
We compose almost at the same time we press the shutter, and in placing the camera closer or farther from the subject, we shape the details – taming or being tamed by them.~Henri Cartier-Bresson
Photography for me has always been these two activities – discovery and development. I have been photographing for almost a decade but half of it can be considered the juvenile stage. It was my snapshooting years. With my first point and shoot cam, it was literally that – shooting where I point. There was no thought in taking pictures. I was a tyro, a neophyte in the world of photography. True, I dabbled in painting and drawing in my youth and hence had an artistic sense in seeing and composing. This would not be put in use until 5 or six years ago when I developed the creative side in my photography – observing, thinking, composing, getting a better grasp of the technical. I unshackled myself from being a slave of “Auto” and basked in the new-found freedom of “Manual.” I did not go Pro because photography is not my main source of income, though there have been business entities and organizations who have directly bought some of my images. Its been some fruitful and productive years for this hobby of mine, and I saw myself, gauging from the images I have produced, grow and improve little by little, step by step, always discovering, learning and absorbing everything that has to do with digital imaging. Oh, just keep on clicking my friends!
A single flower needs to be almost caressed by the camera. There should be an intimate connection between a single flower and the viewer when you isolate it from its companions. It needs to be given special attention. Does it have a fragrance? Does it have a special shape with contours (perhaps like an orchid or iris)? Is it straight forward and open like a sunflower or daisy?
There are some decisions that must be made as you begin working to make a special image. Are you going to blur the background so that the flower is isolated in its glory? How close are you going to get? Do you want the entire flower or just a part of it? What kind of lighting will show it off best? Are their water drops on the flower? Would it look better if there were?
When working an individual flower, I like to keep the design of the image as simple as possible. I consider taking the bird’s eye view of the flower or the worm’s eye view. I move around to get the best light…
~Noella Ballenger from her article Flowers: Beautiful Beautiful Flowers
I saw this grasshopper one morning perched on an aloe vera plant at the house. It was still and I immediately saw the reason for its non-activity. Missing were its most powerful anatomical parts – its hind legs. Hurriedly I took out the digital camera and took shots. Some thoughts ran into my mind – I was taking advantage of a poor, hapless creature. But then its immobility was a strong attraction. For crying out loud, now was not the time to have a conscience for a cricket! So I snapped on, took different angles, tried different perspectives and came out with a couple of dozen shots. Afterwards, I took hold of the creature by the wings and gently settled it on a bush across the fence. In its condition, I don’t know if it could even survive the day but I thought I had done my part by placing it in a most conducive environment. And the lesson is? Photographers may be relentless, inflexible and determined when it comes to taking a shot, yet they are only human; they also have a heart. Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead!
It’s the subject matter that counts. I’m interested in revealing the subject in a new way to intensify it. A photo is able to capture a moment that people can’t always see.~Harry Callahan
Sorry for my one week absence my blogger peers. I had to attend to some important family and business matters. And as the saying goes that absence makes the heart grow fonder, I did missed all of you. Like everyone else, this act of blogging has become so ingrained in my system that a day seems incomplete without posting something. Imagine going “blog-less” for a week or so. Well I hope all of you are safe and sound. I’ll go around in your blogs and see what’s the latest on your end. Keep on clicking! Thanks!
So what is photographic art? Well it’s fluid. Much of what is shown in photography galleries in the last few years was never considered art when it was shot, in fact, not even close. Recent examples are; street photographers from NYC in the 60s and 70s, Larry Fink who is probably best known for photographing parties in the 70’s, rock photographers like Mick Rock who often toured with bands before they became famous, and architectural photographers like Julius Shulman. Beyond what the top established photography galleries are showing, there are new online and brick and mortar galleries with their own take on what’s important. One recent gallery exhibition included only images shot using an iPhone. In the world of art photography, having the best camera, perfect lighting and sharp focus doesn’t always create the most compelling images.
We all have our own definitions of art, but for those who are curious about what they are shooting, if its art, then maybe this will help. Most photographers who shoot commercially call their art shots their “personal work”. I recently read that the difference between design and art is that if something is used functionally, like a chair or a lighting fixture, then no matter how beautiful or esoteric it looks, it’s defined as design, but if something is created “for contemplation only”, then its art. Your art is most likely what you shoot for yourself, not commercially, not for income, but for contemplation. But many documentary photographers images are being exhibited and sold in galleries, so this will always be an open ended area of discussion without hard and fast rules.
~Ted VanCleave from his article series about Fine Art Photography
Images are happening around you every second. You can photograph anything in a million different ways, but what I always try to remember is to photograph something as if I’ve discovered it for the first time. And if I have photographed it before, I find a way to see it as I’ve never seen it before.~Vincent Laforet
Photographs are created within a spatial context, and that context is the viewfinder frame. This may be carried through unchanged to the final image, whether print or on-screen, or it may be cropped or extended. In whichever case, the borders of the image, nearly always a rectangle, exert strong influences on what is arranged inside them.
There is an important distinction, nevertheless, between composing photographs in the frame as they are intended to be, and planning ahead to either crop or extend the frame. Most 35mm film photography has been concerned with tight, final composition at the time of shooting, and at times this has led to a culture of demonstrating the fact by showing the rebates (the frame edges of the film) in the final print—a way of saying “hands off” once the shutter has been released. Square-format film…is less amenable to comfortable composition, and is often used for later cropping. Large format film, such as 4×5-inch and 8×10-inch, is large enough to allow cropping without much loss of resolution in the final image, and is also often cropped, particularly in commercial work. Now digital photography adds its own twist to this, as stitching becomes more widely used for panoramas and over-sized images…
Facility at using this frame depends on two things: knowing the principles of design, and the experience that comes from taking photographs regularly. The two combine to form a photographer’s way of seeing things, a kind of frame vision that evaluates scenes from real life as potential images…
~Michael Freeman from his book The Photographer’s Eye
Go to your local paint store and order pure black and pure white, and they’ll come up with those. No problem. How come there is a whole debate of whether black and white are colors? The science and theory of color which is our basis for determining black and white will have you scratching your head. Are black and white really considered as colors? We will explore and answer that.
Our reference is the site ColorMatters.com and they have an intensive description of what constitutes color and whether black or white can be categorized as such. I suggest you go over their very enlightening article Are Black & White Colors? and get a better understanding of this topic. Let me summarize the findings:
1. Black is not a color. It is the absence of color or the complete absorption of light.
2. White is a color. White reflects all the colors of the visible light spectrum to the eyes.
This obviously is going by the technical definition and scientific fundamentals of colors. As of last count, we have 16 million colors to go by. For black and white, aside from pure black and pure white, we have 254 shades of gray to choose from. But anyway, for practical purposes we categorize black and white as colors. Black is even considered the darkest of colors. The classic black is a standard color for cars, cameras, clothes and high fashion. We are practitioners of black and white photography, and we go by the power and strengths of these two colors to come up with our monochrome masterpieces. So strictly speaking, black is not a color while white is a color because it is the sum total of all the colors in the light spectrum. In the real world however, we are a pragmatic, creative and artistic bunch and we use black and white as normal colors in our palette of tools whether we are graphic artists, designers, painters or photographers.
It is said that minimalism is the art of less. In photography that means less clutter, less distraction, less chaos, less disarray, less disorder and hodgepodge. Minimalist images are clean, clear, plain, tidy, trimmed and unblemished. You show your subject in an empty space, or in relation to emptiness. The psychology is that in the absence of distracting elements, you highlight more the subject that you include in the frame.
The photographer has lots of tools and techniques at his disposal. He can utilize selective focus, selective blur, shallow depth of field, framing, color and tonal contrast, high key and low-key lighting and composition. Again, like many other genres of photography, this requires a combination of the technical and creative. But the motivation still remains the same – isolate and simplify. It was abstract expressionist painter Hans Hofmann who said: “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” In minimalist photography, the one that speaks is your main subject in the midst of glorious isolation, powerful in emptiness and splendid in blankness. The latest Issue of Junsjazz Digital Magazine will be all about Minimalism. Watch out for it as it goes online next week.
Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.~George Eastman
Close up photography opens up a whole new dimension for us. It exposes a world that we normally do not see, details that are usually missed. These are things that can be observed only upon closer inspection. Why do we miss them in our everyday, casual look around?
Our eyes are busy organs. They are trained to scan but not to scrutinize. They have a tendency to see things as a whole, but not to examine closely. Our eyes, with stereo vision, appreciate panoramas but, since they are not of binocular vision, will likely overlook a spot in a wide field. Highlighting subjects in photography means going in close, looking in and not looking at. Though panoramic photography affords us to look at the grandeur of vastness, so does close up photography but on a different dimension and scale. And this requires perception and practice. You know the picture above are droplets but what you didn’t know is that they are on a two-inch petal. For all you know they can just be watery bumps on a bridge spanning a chasm. Scalability in the micro world can create illusion. They can be mysterious but at the same time pleasant and attractive. Learn to stay still and peer at nature. In the middle of the forest our inclination is to gaze up with awe at giant trees, yet there is an unseen world right at our feet waiting for us to have a look and take notice.
The two most engaging powers of (a photographer) are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.~W. Thackeray
Article Excerpt: “So what if all you have is a good point-and-shoot camera – is nature photography out of the question for you? Not at all. Most decent point-and-shoot cameras have macro settings and zoom lenses that give you a fair range from wide-angle to telephoto which can be extended with adapters added to the camera. If you love nature and have an eye, you can get some spectacular shots without recourse to more advanced equipment…The main skill is in seeing and appreciating what is there and then capturing it as you see it so that you can share with others.”~David Phillips from his article Nature Photography
Article Excerpt: “Learning how to create exciting photographs challenges us to discover an in depth view of our surroundings, a tool for exploring our world in more detail. Think of a child just beginning to see. Their eyes are pure and unburdened, everything is new. Getting bogged down by technique right away, could just get in the way. If you enjoy taking pictures, then you will certainly spend some time learning the technical aspects necessary to produce even better images. But first and foremost learn how to see by retraining your eye, to speak with pictures and to draw with light. As in painting using brushes, this box we hold with a hole admitting in light when you press a button, is definitely within our control. The most important aspect of composing images is to create one that you yourself would want to view over again, for each time you see something new and different.” ~Judith Farber from her article The Art of Seeing – A Beginner’s Journey
I post-process my photos. Professionals do it, why shouldn’t I, an enthusiast. Even they who capture near perfect shots still subject their images to editing. It’s their job to be perfectionists; nothing matters but the best outcome, output and result. And that’s one thing that differentiates professionals from us mere mortals, they put attention to details – from capture to presentation. From the moment they pressed the shutter, they have already envisioned the shot, to the time they review the image to tweak the color, adjust tones, improve brightness and contrast, sharpen edges and other host of details during image editing, they are just following their normal workflow.
I am no professional but I follow their standard workflow and have my own set of process. But unlike professionals, I am not working to satisfy clients; I work on my images to satisfy myself. Because in doing so I know I will satisfy my audience when I present the image to the world. And for me, every image I process is an activity of trying to outdo myself, to reach another level of improvement, to elevate my craftsmanship guided by all the accumulated knowledge from years of photographing. One lesson that I learned is that we don’t take perfect photos and, in fact, there are no perfect photos. Hence, we have the tools of image editing softwares to try to simulate perfection, even on a rudimentary level. A polished image is not possible during the moment of capture. We may praise to high heavens the exactness of our composition, creativity, exposure and technical prowess at the time we pressed the shutter. Yet a polished image will always be a result of our meticulous attention in providing the “oomph” and the “aah” during post-processing. In photography, it’s what we call the X factor.