Friday, August 24, 2012

Today's Talented Guest Blogger is Kevin Pepper

Today's talented guest blogger is my friend Kevin Pepper. Take it away Kevin.

In the infancy of photography, we had no choice but to shoot in black and white. Then, in 1936, the invention of Kodachrome offered the alternative of color photography to the world. Surprisingly, black and white photography did not die off, instead it flourished as a popular medium. Black and white photography is unmistakably an art, and many photographers regard it as the purest form of photography. 

Some will say that nothing but B&W photos can capture the emotion and convey the mood of a photo better. Colors can be stunning, and really add to an image’s beauty, but they can also work as a distraction, especially if you have a lot of bright colours causing confusion. 

Black-and-white photography consists of five key concepts, below, I have offered five tips that you can use to adapt these concepts to your images. 

When you are shooting black-and-white photographs you should look beyond the colors and focus on the shapes that surround you. Colors tend to take away your focus on shapes, so forget about them when you are out looking for good places to capture. 

“Look at the world through monochrome eyes” I was once told. 

Ha! Its easier said than done for a fledgling photographer that was still struggling with the exposure triangle of aperture, shutter speed and ISO… so here is a tip I learned long after I was told to look through my monochrome eyes… go buy a square black and white filter or an grey ND filter. Look at a scene through that filter and train your eyes and brain to see how a black and white image will look completely different than a colour image. 

OK, here I am talking out of the other side of my mouth now… It is still prudent to not completely forget about colors when shooting black-and-white photographs. There is always contrast between dark and light colors but also between shadows and lighting. 

Try shooting a light subject against a dark background. Try to photograph bright colours against dark colours, a soft pale green against a blue background… Do this in order to understand that contrast adds some depth. I might also suggest that you take a look at the color wheel… see what colors contrast each other, and learn how they interact with each other.

Patterns can be hard to express in a color image. Colours tend to draw the eye because we are naturally attracted to colours like red and orange. Colours will distract the viewer’s attention and possibly miss the pattern you were trying to bring forth. With black-and-white photography this is not an issue. The pattern will stand out more, so, when shooting black and white… watch for patterns. They are everywhere, and the experienced photographers use them to their advantage.  

In black-and-white photos you should be paying much more attention to texture. The reason is that the color information is not being picked up by the brain. Nothing is there to distract the viewer to really “see” the photo the way it was meant to be seen.

This last element is very important because it will affect all of the others that are mentioned above. You can play with lighting in so many different ways. Side lighting can for example create a dramatic effect. Lighting a subject below ads a sinister feeling and creates emotions. Illumination from above can convey peace and tranquility. Dead on flash from the camera that is too intense, well that will just over expose the image and possibly end up in the trash folder.

Now that we have gone through the elements that you need to pay attention to when taking black and white images… use them as a guideline and play with them when you are out shooting. Paying attention to these details will separate your images from the rest. 

Happy Shooting in monochrome, 

Kevin Pepper

Twitter:  @kpepphotography
Facebook:  kpepphotography

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Great post Kevin!

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