Friday, June 20, 2014

Shades of Gray: B&W Flower Photography

With the abundance of cheap/free photo-filtering software that's available now, black and white and sepia toned photography have experienced a popularity surge. But what makes a good black and white photograph? This week's episode of TwoFeetPhoto will be all about how to take great pictures of flowers - in black and white.

Black and White Flower Photography Basics

So what are some of the elements that go into a great black and white photograph? In this post, I talk about the three main elements that make up a good photograph: subject, lighting, and composition. It's no different for black and white photography, but, as ever, there are a few extra considerations.

1. Texture

Particularly with a subject like flowers, we are drawn promptly to color. Well, that's too bad, because this post is about black and white photography.

One of the keys to producing high-quality black and white photographs is to choose a subject with lots of texture. As one element is removed from the image (color), the others (texture, composition) become more prominent. Use this to your advantage, showcasing different aspects of your subject. Photographs of roses like this one, for example, are often odes to their deep red color. However, a black and white image allows the viewer to appreciate the delicacy of each petal, the unique way they fold together to form the whole flower. These details are often overlooked in color photography.

2. Contrast

I know I titled this post, "Shades of Gray," but that doesn't mean your photograph should be a big, gray blob. When shooting in black and white, you have to think about the tones in the image, and not simply the colors. Colors of the same tone will appear the same shade of gray once converted, leading to a boring, washed-out image.

Picking scenes that have more contrast will provide for stronger photographs. They will naturally have the variation of tones needed to create an interesting black and white image.

3. Lighting

Okay, so if you've been reading my blog, you should know by now that you always need to be paying attention to your lighting. However, it becomes even more important in black and white photography. Why? Like I've said above, black and white images remove a natural focal point from a scene - color. 

Stripped of color, your subject can appear drab and boring (so pick a high tonal contrast scene!). You'll want to ensure that your lighting enhances and does not detract from your subject. This could mean several things - as mentioned in #1, texture is an important element in black and white photography. So the harsh light you would normally want to avoid may become your friend. Harsh side lighting emphasizes texture differences in subjects. So, experiment with your lighting, like usual.

4. Simplify

Like we've been talking about, black and white photography obviously cannot rely on color to make an impact. This creates a separate problem, though -- that is, how does one separate the subject from the background? Normally color is a great clue, but that doesn't apply here. You don't want your subject to blend into the background because they are the same tone. So, a scene with tonal contrast is important (sensing a trend here?).

But it's also important to simply the image. This allows the subject to have a greater impact, making up for some of the oomph it might be lacking from its colorless appearance. Additionally, having a simple background lets the subject stand apart more strongly. You can see how the black background (converted in photoshop) in the above image lends the bloom even more power.

So, what do you think? Do you ever convert images to black and white, or are you a color-lover? Let me know in the comments.
Check back next Friday for the next installment of...TwoFeetPhoto. Please remember to share, follow, and subscribe via the fancy sidebar options! Here is my tumblr and here I am on bloglovin.

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