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Black and White Photography

Black and white photography is all about ambience and effect, and most importantly it also allows a wonderful degree of experimentation. Initially black and white photography was a rather niche area of the hobby and was only ever done by those willing to experiment with infra red films and developing their own images in their own dark rooms, however thanks to the digital resolution most DSLR's feature a wealth of settings and options that make black and white photography very easy to attempt; and the amount of software that is available to add post-processing effects onto an image expand the reasons why you should attempt to take black and white photographs in certain situations.

Often even a basic digital camera will allow you to switch between full colour, black and white (this produces an image made up from grey tones) and sepia (sepia is like black and white but warmer as it uses brown tones instead of grey, think of an aged photograph and you are on the right track). Black and white can be used on any subject but to take truly unique images it is important to use it in the right place and at the right time. If used correctly it can produce a great amount of dramatic emphasis and mood on an image that would otherwise be run-of-the-mill if it were presented in colour; it is up to you as a photographer to experiment with certain subjects and situations until you begin to discover things that lend themselves to black and white photography. When taking a black and white image it is important to remember that the image will be made up of many changing contrasts rather than colours, so if you shoot a dark red car against a dark brown building against a dark grey sky you can be sure that the picture will look glum and not really inspiring at all. Where as if the car were a bright colour and the sky something in between the building and the car then the image would present three unique sets of contrast that are different from one another and stand out; this is the sort of scene that would benefit from black and white photography. The trick is to begin to think about contrast more than colour and you will soon find it easy to differentiate between what will make a poor black and white image and what will make a dramatic and emotional black and white image.

When you are taking black and white photographs you should experiment with filters and lighting. You should even experiment with colour filters where possible; for instance if you place a red filter over the lens it will effect how the sensor interprets red light and even though the final image will be black and white you can produce some interesting shapes and tones using this technique. Lighting is also vital in black and white photography, since everything is made up from a shade of grey you could experiment with back lighting your subject or providing lighting that hits the subject at different angles; each will produce a different tone and alter the mood of the image. Texture is important in black and white photography as well, the grey scale will draw out things from their backgrounds if they are suitably well lit and also highlight minute surface detail that otherwise might not have been so apparent. Whilst you will obviously loose the colour you will gain many exciting other features by experimenting with black and white photography.

If you do take time to produce a set of black and white photographs you will find that you can use software to really make the images something special. Since you are working in shades of grey it is easy to highlight and darken certain areas to bring subjects forward or highlight detail on certain objects. And as with the coloured filters you should experiment with the red, green and blue channels on black and white images as these will effect the brightness and darkness of certain tones. There are a wealth of filters available for most pieces of graphics software that really allow you to manipulate black and white images to produce any effect you desire.