The photography in black and white, often evokes in the mind, the time when the art of photography was at its beginning and at conceived as a symbol of continuity and of survival over time, but also evocation of the various phases of the life happy and tragic ; such as in the Victorian era in which flourished the fashion and the need for photographing their own loved ones at the time after death (Memento Mori)
In photography and in its shades of gray, at the time , was expressed, then, the concept of immortality, as opposed to the current conception of the photography with the technique of “point and shoot” also the most trivial of events, thus losing, all meaning and prestige of photography, making this art , a simple commercialization in the circuit “take easy”.
The black and white, although now rarely used “in everyday photography” and appreciated mostly only by some enthusiasts of the genre gives us a raw idea and “romantic”, typical of periods in which the materials and photographic techniques were still underdeveloped, but gives also a certain intensity and a certain value to the image.
The black and white, although monochrome, is composed of a shade of gray of endless variations and intensity, that depending on the color temperature, may vary from cyanotype to sepia.
But what are the elements that can create a “good shot” in black and white?
- The composition
- The light / time of taking the photo
- The presence of strong structures and guidelines
- The value of brightness of the colors and its tonal contrast
The composition is the key of the photography, but assumes greater importance in the black and white , what is portrayed and how it portrays, if you choose a silhouette or if you decide to bring to light even the details of the subject , are then aspects of great importance compared to the composition in color photography.
The light / time of taking the photo
The amount of light, type of light (artificial daylight, candle light, flash) and angulation, have strong influence on the shoot in black and white, great importance is therefore the choice of the time of day when you decide to make the photos (dawn, dusk, sunset) and the effects,, that according to the light, you can get.
The presence of strong structures and guidelines
In the absence of the color, the presence of strong structures and guidelines, gives to the image a certain interest and a certain attraction even in the presence of a monochrome shooting.
The value of brightness of the colors and its tonal contrast
In the picture in black and white, where there isn’t a chromatic scale is not important the color hue, but its brightness value and its tonal contrast, as opposed to the chromatic contrast.
From my own research, I have come to the conclusion that the use of exposure, have a strong influence on the photo in black and white. In the presence of very strong highlights and special conditions such as a cloudy sky or a sunset over the sea (where even the light tends to fade there is a strong reflection on the water), a decrease from, 0 to -1 spot exposure, allows to obtain an image of strong intensity in which it has a greater tonal contrast.
The exposure is also crucial in the use of silhouette (composition that goes well with black and white) as subject of the image, with as setting the exposure on the background you will get an underexposed image, which will make visible only the outline of subject.
The technique of black and white, requires , compared to color photography a greater focus and attention to details, ranging, as we have seen, from the choice of the subject up to the choice and use of light and exposure, this is essential to achieve good results in an image in which the absence of color could make flat and meaningless the photograph, not for this, however, black and white photography expresses, minor sensations, than a color photo, in fact, the black and white in my opinion has a greater stimulus to the imagination , because we can be ourselves, through our perception to “paint” a shot.
So I think the black and white is a technique “ever green”, able to express intensity and visual impact, so it is worth to know his “secrets” and use it to the best , in the era of color.
Eleonora Gadducci ( Etè Nocturnes Photographer )