Saturday, October 23, 2010
Try black and white for emotional and visual impact
When inspiration and creativity seem to be hiding in the bushes it can be difficult to break out of a photographic rut. As the days go by and the images get duller, enthusiasm starts to wane. These are the times when we need to dig deep and do something different to break the patterns of habit. Going so far as to make breaking the pattern a habit can reduce those lackluster photographic spells to a bare minimum.
One of my personal “pattern breakers” is to shoot a day or two of black and white(yes, with digital). The best way to do this with a DSLR is to set the camera to record both RAW and .jpg files set to “black and white” mode. Some older DSLR’s and most compact digital cameras won’t have this feature and it will be necessary to shoot only black and white .jpg files. While not as good for ultimate image quality, .jpg’s serve the habit-breaking purpose of this exercise just fine.
Actually shooting in black and white mode, rather shooting in color and converting after the fact, serves more than one purpose. Obviously the most immediate reason is to get an immediate, on-the-camera-back preview in black and white. The effect of traditional black and white colored filters is visible right away.
A second reason for shooting in black and white mode is to really make the break mentally away from color and into a different thought/vision space. This is very important for creativity and thought stimulation. You will find yourself making images in black and white that just would not work in color. This is one of the points of the exercise.
My favorite tool for making the final image is Adobe Camera Raw when starting from a RAW file. It does a great job and makes it possible to fine tune every color density range. If Camera RAW is not an option, my next choice is color channels. Channels is similar to Camera Raw but with fewer color range adjustments. As with color editing, everyone will eventually develop their own personal favorite “look”.
There are many reasons that black and white photography has never gone completely out of style. When all of the color is taken away, what is left can have much more emotional and visual impact. Color can be used for impact but can also be a great distraction from what the photographer is really trying to communicate. Think of becoming proficient at black and white photography as adding another language to your visual communication portfolio.