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Tips for Black and White Photography

Color photography is a beautiful medium, especially when color is essential to the subject of the picture, as it should be in pictures of flowers, dresses, food, landscapes, sunrises, sunsets, products, and abstract work.

But there are times when the beauty of color distracts from the meaning and the message of the picture. Think of the iconic images that have changed history over the years: the naked Vietnamese girl screaming because she has just been burned by napalm. The flag raising at Iwo Jima. The wounded soldier crawling off the beach at Normandy. The girl crying over the body of her fellow student who has just been killed at Kent State. President Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald being shot in Dallas,

Think of the iconic images made by Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alfred Eizenstadt, Dorothea Lange, Robert Capa, and so many other famous photographers

Now check out this image of a Korean War Memorial soldier at night. Look at the fear in the face of s young soldier so scared of being shot at any moment.

Korean War Memorial, Washington, DC What do they all have in common? They are all in black and white, even though they were all created in an era when color film or digital media was available.

By removing the distracting element of color, a black and white image hits you in the face with the essence of the image: the relationship of two lovers on a park bench in Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, with their heads cocked together and shot from behind. That picture says: “Love”.  A father lifting his young child up into the air to admire and kiss the child. That picture says: “parental devotion”. The New York skyline at night. That picture says: “Beautiful cityscape”. The mirror-like reflection of the Jefferson Memorial in the calm waters of the Tidal Basin at night. That picture says: “Monumental grandeur”.

All digital cameras now can shoot in a Monochrome mode, or any color image can easily be converted into a monochrome image. Many people PREFER to shoot DC at night in monochrome because the photos are more elegant than the same images shot in color.

Here is a link to one of the finest contemporary practitioners of monochrome photography in the world, a London-based Romanian photographer named Ovidiu Selaru. Check it out and prepare to be dazzled by silhouettes and light!

So, to produce images that dramatically tell a story, shoot in black and white!

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