Black and white fine art photography is a powerful medium that allows photographers to create images with a timeless quality that transcends traditional color photography. When it comes to creating impactful black and white images, two important elements to consider are contrast and texture. In this article, we'll explore how using contrast to emphasize the textures in landscapes and using shadows to create dramatic contrast in black and white images can elevate your fine art photography.
But when it comes to creating powerful black and white fine art images, it's not just about contrast and texture. Composition, subject matter, and storytelling are also important elements to consider. When composing your images, pay attention to the lines and shapes in the frame, and how they interact with each other. Consider the emotional impact you want your image to have on the viewer, and use your composition and subject matter to tell a story.
But what is it about black and white photography that is so compelling? Perhaps it's the timeless quality of the images, or the way that they can capture emotion and mood in a way that color photos often can't. Or maybe it's just the classic feel that black and white photos have, like a throwback to a simpler time.
UNDERSTANDING TONAL RANGE AND CONTRAST
Balancing tonality and contrast in fine art black and white photography is essential to creating powerful and captivating images. The tonality of a photograph refers to the range of tones, from black to white and everything in between, while contrast refers to the difference between the darkest and lightest tones. Finding the right balance between these elements is crucial to achieving a beautiful and expressive image.
One of the most effective ways to create texture in black and white images is by using contrast. By increasing the contrast in certain areas of the photograph, you can create a sense of depth and dimensionality that draws the viewer in. When it comes to landscapes, using contrast to emphasize the textures of the land can create images that are not only visually stunning but also have a tactile quality to them. Experiment with different lighting conditions and post-processing techniques to find the perfect balance of contrast and texture in your images.
Another powerful tool in creating impactful black and white images is the use of shadows. By strategically placing shadows in your images, you can create dramatic contrast that draws the viewer's eye and creates a sense of depth and mood. In landscapes, using shadows to create contrast can help emphasize the shape and form of the land, and create a sense of drama and tension. Experiment with different lighting conditions and exposure settings to find the perfect balance of shadows and contrast in your images.
Creating figure and ground in a black and white photo is a fundamental aspect of composition that can make or break the success of an image. But what exactly does it mean to create figure and ground, and how can you use it to take your black and white photography to the next level? Well, fear not my fellow photography enthusiasts, because in this article, we're going to delve into the fascinating world of figure and ground in black and white photography.
Now, I know what you're thinking, "figure and ground? Isn't that just fancy talk for subject and background?" Well, yes and no. Figure and ground refers to the relationship between the subject and the space around it, and how they interact to create a sense of depth and balance in the image. It's like a dance between the two, and when done right, it can create a truly captivating image.
How to Create the Figure and Ground
Creating figure and ground in black and white photography is all about the balance and relationship between the subject and the surrounding space. When done correctly, this technique can create a sense of depth, contrast, and texture that draws the viewer's eye to the subject and evokes a particular mood or emotion. In this section, we will explore some key techniques and tips for creating figure and ground in black and white photography.
First and foremost, it's important to understand that light and shadow play a crucial role in creating figure and ground in black and white photography. By using light to illuminate the subject and casting shadows around it, you can create a clear separation between the subject and the surrounding space. For example, you might place your subject in front of a bright light source, such as a window, and use a reflector or diffuser to control the shadows and highlight the subject's features.
Texture and detail are also essential elements in creating figure and ground in black and white photography. By emphasizing the texture and detail in both the subject and the surrounding space, you can create a sense of depth and interest that draws the viewer's eye. This can be achieved through careful use of aperture and focus, as well as post-processing techniques such as dodging and burning to enhance texture and detail.
Another important aspect of creating figure and ground in black and white photography is the use of contrast. By using a wide range of tones, from pure white to deep black, you can create a dynamic and striking image that highlights the subject and the surrounding space. This can be achieved through careful use of exposure and post-processing techniques such as contrast adjustments and tone curves.
Finally, it's important to remember that creating figure and ground in black and white photography is not just about following a set of rules or techniques. It's about using your creativity and intuition to find the perfect balance between subject and space, light and shadow, texture and detail, and contrast. Experiment with different techniques and approaches, and don't be afraid to take risks and try something new. With practice and perseverance, you can master the art of creating figure and ground in black and white photography and take your images to the next level.
How to Create Black and White Images
Right now, there are countless ways to turn a color image black and white. Any photo editing software can do this. Using Lightroom, it's as easy as clicking the black and white button and moving some sliders to darken and lighten different colors in the image. Photoshop is similar but more options are available using a Black and White layer and moving the color sliders.Gradient Maps offer an additional option with slightly different results than the black and white layer. These can also be combined. I use a Photoshop plugin called Artisan Pro X. This plugin allows for more control over the process for superior results. This panel allows me to control the light, create dimension, and use special FX to create the images.
Most of my black and white photographs have been created using hard masks of all the important elements. These masks allow for editing individual parts and not the entire image at once. Although this takes much longer to create, the results are far better. Controlling light, shadows, and directing the eye of the viewer is part of the this process. With nature scenes, creating masks isn't hard but cityscapes can take days. Since I edit each building individually, I use the pen tool in Photoshop and trace each structure. It's time consuming but worth the effort.
Pay close attention to the background. A busy background takes the focus off the figure. For instance, a black and white image of a forest scene is shades of grey with no figure and your eye wanders around loses interest. A clean background allows the viewer to see the figure and know what the image is about.
Learn to enjoy the editing process. If you don't enjoy editing, black and white images will be difficult. I mentioned I can spend weeks on 1 cityscape or architecture image or just a few hours for a landscape. I know many photographers spend less than 10 minutes editing because it's not fun. On the other hand, black and white street photography editing may be different. I'm not a street photographer so don't know how they edit their images.
Shooting in Black and White
Ideas for black and white photos are endless and can be done in any weather conditions. I prefer overcast days with no contrast. Others prefer bright sunshine to create contrast especially for street photography. Shooting on overcast days allows the photographer to create contrast while editing and draw the viewer's eye through the image.
Most modern cameras aren't capable of shooting in black and white. While you can change the screen to black and white, the RAW files are in color and must be converted. At least that's how my Sony camera works. This gives the photographer more control over the editing process as you can dodge and burn each color to create the black and white image. Black and white photos are now my favorite. It allows me to create the image I want and not let the sunrise or sunset colors do it. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy color, but black and white is more creative.
Best Photographic Paper for Printing Black and White
When it comes to printing black and white photos, the best paper choice is often determined by the desired result and the specific characteristics of the paper. Baryta PhotoRag 315 GSM is widely regarded as an excellent option for this purpose.
With a weight of 315 grams per square meter (GSM), Baryta PhotoRag is heavyweight and durable, ensuring a luxurious feel and longevity to your prints. Its high-quality cotton rag composition also offers exceptional archival properties, making it an ideal choice for preserving your black and white photographs for generations.
Whether you are a professional photographer or an enthusiast looking to showcase your black and white photographs, Baryta PhotoRag 315 GSM is a top-notch paper choice. Its exceptional print quality, luxurious feel, and archival properties ensure that your black and white images are brought to life with stunning precision and timeless elegance.
Founder of Modern Black and White Photography
When most people think about black and white photography, Ansel Adams is the first person that comes to mind. To some, he is considered the founder of modern black and white photography. But not only was he an amazing photographer, he played a vital role the conservation of national parks like Yosemite by being part of the Sierra Club's board of directors. But back to photography. I couldn't imagine what Ansel had to go through to get his images. Especially in Yosemite. Carrying a large format film camera, large tripod, and everything else he needed. Then have to find a dark room to do all the post processing on each image. And before you say post processing is cheating and that it should be perfect out of the camera, Ansel would spend at least a full day processing each image. I don't know how it works in the dark room but he would dodge and burn his images to get the viewer's eye to see what he wanted. Dodging and burning is lightening and darkening areas of the photo to draw the eye where it should go. I often wonder what he could do with a modern camera. I also think that while he is considered one of the best, times and equipment have changed and I prefer modern black and white images. It's not better, just different.
In conclusion, using contrast to emphasize the textures in landscapes and using shadows to create dramatic contrast in black and white images are important techniques to consider when creating impactful fine art photography. But it's also important to consider composition, subject matter, and storytelling when creating black and white images. By experimenting with different techniques and paying attention to all the elements in the frame, you can create powerful, timeless images that leave a lasting impression on the viewer.
If you want to get serious about black and white photography, spend the money for Artisan ProX by bwvision.com. It will make your editing come to life. I also offer processing lessons over Zoom and can walk you through how to edit black and white or color images.
Please contact me with any questions about purchasing limited edition premium fine art prints from any of my galleries.