There is a certain nostalgia about black and white; not just memories of old photographs but early television too. In fact black and white is very effective at emphasizing the shapes and tones of the subject. Black and white can produce a strong image from a subject that might look weaker in colour.
To help your understanding of black and white photography this tutorial will look at the following areas:
• Winter landscapes
• Urban landscapes
• Night photography
• Using filters
• ‘Seeing’ in black and white
• Shooting JPEG and RAW files
Winter landscapes are well suited to black and white photography. At this time of year there is often very little colour in a scene – no vibrant greens and few red or yellow flowers. A snow-covered landscape is already mostly monochrome. You can concentrate on the shapes of leafless trees, stone walls and buildings. Composition and contrast become key elements of the image.
The rule-of-thirds is especially useful in black and white photography, with little colour to distract the eye. Imagine a grid drawn in the camera viewfinder – two vertical lines and two horizontal lines giving four intersections. Aim to place your main subject at one of these intersections. This produces a strong composition.
Another compositional aid is the receding perspective. You can see this if you take a photograph looking down a road or along railway tracks. The lines of the road or track appear to converge, even though we know they are parallel. The eye is attracted to the lines and drawn into the image.