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93 - Qualities that Make a Good B&W Photo (podcast now live)

This is a discussion on 93 - Qualities that Make a Good B&W Photo (podcast now live) within the Podcasting forums, part of the Education & Technical category; Marko I still have difficulty in determining what qualities would make a photo a good Black and White photo. Next ...

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    Default 93 - Qualities that Make a Good B&W Photo (podcast now live)

    Marko

    I still have difficulty in determining what qualities would make a photo a good Black and White photo. Next to taking all my colour photos and trying each one in B&W to see if it works, what should I look for in the colour photo to help me narrow this down. The only two things I currently know of are;

    1. To make a photo look old, converting it to sepia helps.
    2. To help reduce ugly coloured items standing out, converting it to B&W helps. I can think of one example of a a recent photo I posted. It had ugly metal steps in it. Bambi comverted it to B&W for me and it was much improved.

    You can either answer this in the forum, or maybe others have this same problem and this might make a good podcast suggestion.

    Thanks asnow

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    Thanks for the suggestion asnow, good podcast suggestion indeed, I'm on it!
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    It all depends on what you like and how you like your B&W images to look. I prefer my B&W images to be high contrast and to have them evoke some type of emotional response. B&W images should grab your attention, if they do this then they are a successful B&W image. Many people attempt to show all the shadow detail as though this was the Holy Grail when in fact if the image doesn't move you emotionally in some fashion it is a failure IMHO.
    If you go to my website you will see what I mean by high contrast B&W images. Whether they evoke some kind of emotional response or not for you depends in part on your personal preferences. They do grab my attention and because they achieve what I was trying to accomplish they are successful images, again IMHO. However, I only shoot to please myself and as an amateur this is a very liberating feeling. I hope this helps in some small way.
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    Tim
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    If you don't mind my chiming it, it seems like you're using B&W to "save" poor images or just to achieve an aged effect. In my mind both approaches are flawed. When I convert to monochrome it is for the sake of the image itself, often picturing it that way when I shoot it, not as an afterthought if I don't like the color. I shot a lot of Tri-X in the 80s and after a while you get to understand the gray values of pretty much any color. Then you can view a scene and evaluate its merits other than color; does it have strong framing, lines and composition? Are the gray values extreme enough (will you get nearly pure white or black out of the shot?)? Is the subject isolated enough on its own or does it only stand out because of its color? Is the object only identifiable because of color? Is the subject largely characterized by its color (think old British phone box)? Stuff like that.

    In some cases a B&W picture has to stand stronger than a color picture on the basic elements - framing, subject matter, DoF and composition. That's not to say using monochrome to bring up a feel to a photo is wrong; say turning an old house picture into sepia - that would work well if the photo works well to begin with.
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    I don't mind at all - anyone can chime in and I might use it in the podcast and credit you if that's cool.
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    thanks M. I didn't want to steal your thunder, but I find this approach to monochrome puzzling. Maybe it's the nature of digital because almost all B&W images we see were originally shot in color. We see B&W as a processing option like any other. One reason I LOVE winter photography is because it lends itself to B&W so readily. The extreme gray values involved make for dramatic images and with snow in a picture you can really lead a viewer's eye through the shot in a deliberate way. Forms and structures become the focus and don't get overwhelmed by color (green leaves or flowers etc).

    credit away, my friend. B&W is something I try to use well and I'm learning, too.
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    Thanks WD and Tim for your suggestions. As you can tell B&W is an art that I haven't got a handle on yet. Many years ago when I shot analogue photography (very amateurish I admit) I never used B&W film, just colour film and slides. Now that I have had a digital camera for a couple of years all my pictures are still shot in colour. To get a B&W picture they have to be converted. In fact until recently I didn't even have an appreciation for B&W. That is starting to change as I can now see the different moods, etc that a B&W photo can give. I can now recognize a B&W photo that I really like, however I still don't understand yet, what qualities have made that a good B&W photo. I guess this is all part of the learning this art of photography.

    Marko. Thanks for considering this as a podcast suggestion. I look forward to hearing the podcast and any input/suggestions that anybody else may have.

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    Hi Asnow,
    I shot with a pair of EOS3's, one for color and one for B&W. When I looked at a scene for a B&W shot I tried to determine what I liked about it that made it interesting. As WD said winter eliminates a lot of the clutter and reduces a scene to shapes and forms. Now you have to decide how you want to portray those shapes or forms, such as in a high key image or a low key. At this point you also make a decision about contrast and how you want the final image to look. Once you have made those decisions you now know how to expose the shot to accomplish your vision. All of these decisions are made before the shot not afterward. Any post processing changes merely enhance your original vision and allow you the opportunity to refine the shot.
    Kindest regards,

    Tim
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    Ditto on the comments from Wicked Dark. B&W photos stand on their own as the best representation for some shots. I often find good ones far more striking than their colour conterpart could be. Spending lots of hours in the darkroom for a single photo was always something I looked forward to. I will add one comment on something that really good B&W photos need that isn't always there. That's Black and White. Both have to be resident for me. Shades of grey alone don't provide the impact I look for and exceptional photos have the maximum range available. Digital is somewhat less than film but the end result can still be great with some effort.

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    that's it, Andrew - the extremes of white and black are necessary. I had a conversation about it recently with a guy that I consider a talented photographer. he didn't know either, but another friend did because he shot Tri-x too, back in his analog days.
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