Project: Black and White

Ever since my darkroom gave way to a family bedroom, many, many years ago, and later when I embraced the digital technology, I have not shot in or for black and white. I have felt that to shoot in black and white, there needs to be a compelling reason. My photographic eye has been trained to see in colour and use colour as part of the composition.

This exercise required composing and exposing for black and white and suggested that I would need to consider different concerns. Because of my lack of experience with black and white, I had only an appreciation what these other concerns might be that were outlined in the course notes and no idea how to consider them. Consequently I took a number of shots to see how they would convert.

Here they are:

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This is quite a colourful picture but the colours are all fairly even tones. Accordingly, when it is converted to black and white it comes out rather bland, in fact the carrots are completely lost. More interest might be kept by varying how the image is converted but that comes later.

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The original image is almost monochrome but the conversion to black and white shows that there is some subtle colouration in the tin. This might be due to a slight colour cast (it appeared to be a silver colour in the flesh) and this raised another question: how relevant is white balance, so important in colour photography, to black and white.

The next image explores this. The first was taken with the white balance set to tungsten, then on auto.

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These are the converted files:

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There is very little difference between the two black and white pictures.

I think this image has translated into black and white much better than the other two. The colour of the image is very subdued with its pastel shades and the image relies much more on variations in tone which lend shape to the object. This has translated very nicely into black and white, in fact removing the colour has emphasised this aspect.

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This image has much brighter colours than the previous one but the modelling of the bottles is given largely by the shape of the reflections. This retained well in the black and white version, another image that has converted nicely.

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There is something old-fashioned about a packet of Daz. I remember the adverts when I was a child and the packets do not seem to have changed much since then so it should make a good subject for a black and white conversion. The bold shape and strong colour seem to suit the monochrome approach.

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This is an image that depends on its bold colours. The blue of the punch, red of the scissors and brown of the desk all convert to the same tone in black and white so the result is another bland image.

This has proved a useful exercise in getting an understanding of how colours translate to black and white and what aspects of an image convert well and which not so.

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