Black & White
I was actually really excited to take on this month's topic of Black and White photography. Then, life hit (kinda hard). Matt's car died and we had a couple of other big financial hits so my month became mostly about picking up overtime shifts. I worked so much that I had hardly any time to devote to photography. I didn't really meet my goal of learning the technical aspect of B/W photography. However, I did grab my camera and try a few new things, so I'm just having grace for myself as a super busy working mama.
I really need to give a quick shout out to my amazing husband Matt who is giving me the afternoon to get this done. As of 3 PM on Easter, I had ZERO blog started and had edited 5 photos for the post. We both work tomorrow and the boys head back to school after Spring Break so the house is in need of some serious week-prep. He graciously said, "I'll take care of it. Go work on your blog." Such a gift. Anything to follow is because of his selflessness. Thank you so much Matt!
Some people love B&W photography. It definitely has a timeless value to it, and some folks are AMAZING at creating stunning colorless images. I am not one of those folks. My eye almost always prefers color photos. The only time I take things into B&W in post-processing is when I either need to match photos that wouldn't otherwise match or I don't like the colors in the image so the easy fix is to remove the color.
I was excited to try and shoot with the purpose of B/W rather than it being an afterthought. It's a totally different mindset. I got shots that I liked, but I don't feel like I learned anything worth sharing in terms of technical knowledge. Maybe my super smart friend Kelly with have some further insight over on her post. I know from chatting with her that she struggled with finding time this month as well, but she's always so full of knowledge and inspiration even when she says she's not ;).
"Black and White" photography is actually a misnomer in my opinion. I've not seen 50 Shades of Grey, but I'm PRETTY sure it's not about photography LOL. Still, it's actually the better term to describe the art of shooting images without a full color palate. A technical term for this is called monochrome. You can set your DSLR to monochrome mode so that you can view your images on your camera screen in B/W.. The cool part is that the color data is all still saved, so you always have the option of returning the image to full color in post-processing. However, as my friend Tracy mentioned in a social media post this month, once you shoot an image in monochrome, it just doesn't look right in color. I totally agree with her and had thought that myself multiple times during this project. If you have a DSLR, try it! It will absolutely change your mindset as you look for light and compose your images. You will become much more aware of contrast and worry less about even light and tones. Hard light and hard edges can be super challenging in color but actually add texture and emotion beautifully in monochrome, as I will touch on below.
Timelessness & Emotion
I think we can all agree that there is a timeless feeling to B/W photography simply because color styles don't give away hints as to the age of the photo. Somehow, there is emotion captured in the dark and light. I wish I understood the technical reasons for this a little more, but I have to admit, I'm sort of "shooting in the dark" (sorry for the pun). Anyhow, I don't think I'm alone in feeling like a well composed B/W photo tends to illicit emotion more than the same image might in color. Not always, but often.
As I mentioned above, when you are shooting in color, the harshness of contrasting light can be a challenge. In monochrome mode, it's actually what I found myself seeking out to create interest.
I really liked this one I took of the fireplace when we spent a night at our favorite cabin in Central Oregon this week during Spring Break. I was mesmerized by how beautiful the dancing flames were in monochrome. I bumped up the clarity and contrast in Lightroom. So beautiful!
Below are a couple others that I liked in B/W that were too shadow-y or stark in color for my taste.
I'm intrigued by the one of the girls in the tent. It was one of the only images I managed to achieve this month that was primarily white with darker subjects. Other times that I tried for this look, the background was either blown out or super grey and dull. I'm glad I got one success, but I wish I could take credit for knowing how I did it, ha!
I'd absolutely hoped to explore this more this month. One thing that B&W photography does best is highlight texture. You can increase the clarity and contrast (via your editing program or app) to completely transform a "boring" photo into a stunning result. Check out this before and after. I'm in love with the after and would have probably never even noticed this photo on import if I was not doing this project.
I just LOVE the thickness of the after. It's so real and you feel like you can reach out and touch her wet curly locks. It's an experiential photo (aka you can imagine being there to experience the scene). When you successfully invoke texture as a photographer, you draw in the sense of touch and break through the one-dimensional experience of the viewer who expects to only be looking with their eyes. They are taken off guard to be experiencing another sense, and it makes them enjoy your photo more even though they don't know why. So cool!
Get Creative with your edits
I exaggerated the contrast in that last one, but I think it looks interesting. That's the fun thing about B/W ... you can get really creative. Speaking of, check out this fun image. It's actually a photo of the boys from the fall, but made it a Tiny Planet image, and it's awesome.
Similar to hard light, shadows are actually made easier by B/W conversion. A portrait that would be tossed because of a shadow halfway across the face often looks just fine in the absence of color. Somehow, emotion takes over and our eyes forgive stark shadows when we are viewing a monochrome image.
Admit it. You also get this excited when it's Mac-N-Cheese for lunch.
Black & White is a fantastic way to capture documentary style photos (which tend to have clutter that can distract from your composition). Of course, it also is a great fix for awful indoor light. The last few in this series are from our night away in Black Butte. I'm so glad I have these photos because this cozy cabin is our family's favorite place to visit, but the lighting was SOOOO yellow and dark. They are definitely ones I would have put into B&W even before this month's theme.
I'm trying to be better about getting in the frame. B&W is a little more forgiving for the mama who almost never wears make-up, haha. It also helps you out a lot to salvage a photo when your clothes completely clash with your kids' outfits. Pop the image into B&W and no one knows you didn't coordinate in the slightest.
A few more
Here are a handful more images that I liked from this month for various reasons. Hadley is the subject frequently because she is home with me the most. Mr. Peabody snuck into a couple too. Thanks so much for following along. If you have any favorite tips or resources for improving B/W photography, I'm all ears. I'd love to try this challenge again sometime. It definitely took me out of my normal routine and got me thinking about photos in a whole new way.
This is the #1 reason I love B&W photography even though it's not really "my thing." At the end of the day, if it's almost completely dark out but the big bro is carrying home the little sis (who fell down and is crying), you know that no matter how terrible and grainy the light is, the picture will capture all the feels. And it does. FTW.
I'm putting this entry to bed, but I have a feeling my interest in B/W is just starting to kindle. Happy April everyone! ~ Jessica