The decisions that the photographer must make are decisions that are made on the basis of feelings and emotions. Decisions that are aimed at expressing our emotional response to a scene, our perception of the subject we desire to photograph, and our personal artistic approach. All of these represent individual choices, choices that we are usually unaware of until we find ourselves in the act of capturing a specific subject with a lens and a camera. As such, this process prevents camera designers and software engineers to program either the hardware or the software to automatically express our response to the subject. They cannot program it any more than we can program it because both of us ignore what this response will be.
So what am I getting at in this explanation? I am getting at the fact that no matter how advanced and automaticized the equipment and the software we use becomes, there cannot be a substitute for individual input and expression.
What I am also getting at is the fact that the field of endeavor where this individual input is best expressed is the field of composition. Why? First, because composition is about personal choices: very few, if any, aspects of composition can be automaticized. Second, because composition is a field of endeavor composed of multiple facets and not just a set of rules. If it was just a set of rules it would be possible, theoretically, to think that these rules may be embedded in camera or computer software and that such software may have the ability to “compose” photographs on the basis of these rules, or the ability to give us directions aimed at helping us compose images in a specific way.
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
Capturing High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos and processing them is one of my photographic enjoyments. Shooting a scene in its normal exposure sometimes doesn’t cut it, especially if your light is on the side or back of your subject. In that case, your subject is dark and becomes just a silhouette. Using your camera’s bracketing feature (to take three different exposure shots) or shooting in RAW format allows you to create HDR images, and post processing them later. I usually go for the former or if ever I capture in RAW I convert the image first to jpeg or tiff (to minimize noise) then process. We will not do an HDR tutorial here, but I will share my viewpoint on why I do HDR on certain subjects and scenes. First let me point you to some great links:
HDR allows you to present an image with all the nuances of light and the subtleties of color.
Hence HDR images are quite colorful (though this isn’t always so) with deep contrasts. When done right, you can produce images that pop right out. I am fond of HDR but only on certain subjects such as landscapes and, you guessed it right, churches. The key phrase here is “when done right.” In HDR we have the tendency to amp it up to get that “ah” and “omph” and likening it to too much salt, it spoils the broth. The standard for HDR is realism. It must look natural, but enough to bring out the details. Note the cracks, exposed bricks and signs of age on the walls of the church pictured above, or the deep yet fading (or I should say peeling) colors of the church below. In a non-HDR image, you will just see a relatively smooth wall with a few jagged lines representing cracks. So much more are exposed – light, details and information using the HDR technique. Here is an excerpt from Rhommel Bernardino in his article What is HDR Photography? (it’s the first link above):
With HDR technology, photographers can compile different photographs taken at variable exposures. Not only that but also this technique allows photographers create images with an excellent light detail, which is not possible in single shot taken by ordinary cameras. By using HDR cameras, photographers can capture excellent still photographs, in overexposed as well as underexposed settings. Though photographers have the freedom of adding several effects to the photographs, it is always recommended to keep the image as realistic as possible.
In his book “Galen Rowell’s Vision”, the author notes that we increasingly inhabit a world of “mature” imagery. He is referring to subjects that have become so much a part of the everyday media parade as to be cliches. In a visual universe where the unfamiliar of yesterday is the humdrum of today, try making abstract photos of nature that go beyond the record shot to suggest a personal vision, convey emotion, and revel in the challenge of expressive seeing.
Routine travel to far off corners has allowed everyone access to the once rare. Digital technology all but ensures that exposure and sharpness are a given. So where does all this leave nature photography? Abstraction can embrace any number of approaches in the continuum between the extremes of traditional formal nature portraiture and personal artistic expression. Exploring the natural world on the more personal level that abstraction allows can point the way towards a bolder, more individual approach to nature photography.
~Larry Monczka from his article Abstract Photos
There are three aspects of rainforest photography that must always be kept in mind; 1) it is very hot and very humid in tropical rainforests, 2) it is dark in rainforests, and 3) there will be lots of neat things way up in the canopy that you will not be able to photograph, and things you will hear but never be able to see! Frustrating but fun!
In the “good old days” of film photography, the heat and humidity could sometimes cause the shutter mechanism of a camera to slow or simply stop working. Digital cameras do not have this weakness, BUT – moisture is the enemy of anything electronic. There are obvious tools to use, such as a small umbrella carried in the camera bag to hold over the camera to shoot in the rain, but more subtle than the threat of rain is that of the humidity. If you take a camera out of an air-conditioned room into a hot humid environment, moisture will condense not only on the outside of the camera and lens, but possibly inside as well. A simple solution is to keep you camera and lenses in an air-tight case, and allow time to adjust to the heat before opening the case. If you have an air-tight case, load it up with moisture-absorbing packets before your trip. A more simple approach is to keep your camera and lenses (and flash) inside sealed Zip-lock bags for a few minutes when leaving a cold room. It is OK to take them directly from the heat into your cool room – let them cool down and any moisture evaporate before putting them back in their Zip-lock bags.
It is dark in the jungle! Look for shafts of light landing on flowers or insects to find interesting contrasts. Always have your flash, and realize that without a powerful flash you probably will not be able to photograph those birds and monkeys (especially the ones that are moving!) that you see 30 feet in front of you! Plan on using your flash a lot – take extra batteries! Remember the value of fill-in flash…
~from the article Taking Photos In The Rainforest
Black and white photography is a bit of an odd way to describe this type of photography. A black and white photo often contains mainly grey tones. This is why black and white photos are often called monochrome photos too.
Black and white photos give you their information by using luminance variations, not by showing variations in color. Your thoughts are not distracted by the colors and therefore the attention goes to subject, composition and lighting.
Not every subject is suited for a black and white photo and it isn’t always easy to ‘see in black and white’. There are, however, things you can pay attention to when looking for good subjects for your black and white photos. Subjects with lots of contrast will be more suited by the large variations in luminance. The right light is important; light that’s coming from an angle will make textures stand out. Light coming for only one direction will produce big differences in light and shadow…
Experienced black and white photographers are often able to think away the color in a scene. They imagine the scene in black and white. To do this, you’ll need a lot of practice, but it’s possible for anyone to learn. If you have a hard time trying to see in black and white you can always just take a black and white shot and view it the camera display. If you’re not using RAW, retake the shoot in color to be able to perform you’re own conversion instead of relying on the standard black and white conversion.
~Elja Trum from his article Black and White Photography; The World Without Color