The photographs had to be black and white when the color films had not yet appeared. Even after the invention of color films and digital photography, the black and white photography were never carried to dusty shelves. Photography was already an element of art, and although interest in an element of art is decreasing, it is impossible to eliminate it altogether. The main reason for this is the photographer himself. The most important feature of black and white photography is that it creates a different feeling atmosphere. As it reveals different feelings and creates a nostalgic atmosphere, black and white photography is still preferred and used today.
The human brain constantly recognizes and defines what the eye sees. If you can look at photography as a branch of art, you are in an effort to reinterpret and define, show your own perspective to the world and make a difference. Man sees color, unlike what is believed, even the color blind does not see the world in black and white. This black and white world, apart from the pattern known by the human brain, offers different tastes and reflects an abstract reality in the environment.
In today’s digital environment, the conditions of the past are no longer valid. In the times when there were films, taking black and white photos was only possible with thinking in black and white. Nowadays, a frame taken digitally as a JPEG or RAW format is then converted to black and white. However, black and white photography should be planned during shooting and should be taken with black and white in mind. “Shooting first and then, if we like it, we will turn it into black and white” this logic will generally not be satisfactory. Ask yourself if the moment you’re looking at will look better in color or black and white.
A composition that you can use very well in a color photograph may not find itself in a black and white photography. A photograph in which contrasting colors of green and orange and the distinction created by their use will not be striking in black and white, because these two colors will find their place in the similar gray scale. Similarly, a colorful environment will be a very complex background for a color photo, while having similar shades can be an extremely simple background for a black and white photo. It is difficult to find the answer to the question of which photo should be taken in black and white or not. But in any case, it must be said that there should not be very strict rules. Nature photos are often presented in color because the natural environment colors it contains are considered essential. However, photographs of nature where black and white are used very effectively are also frequently encountered.
An important point in creating a composition in black and white photographs is that you will remember the general composition rules and that graphics, charts and figures will be very prominent in the photograph, due to the lack of colors and reduction of everything to the gray scale. For this reason, it is necessary to search and use these composition values in black and white photographs.
Contrary to popular belief, black and white photographs actually represent colors, they provide this with a gray scale scale. That is, every color and every light finds itself with a point of the gray scale scale. If only dark, blackish tones and whites dominate the photo, high contrast is mentioned. And generally, it is understandable photographs with high stain clarity. The presence of a rich gray scale and photographs in which deep black and white are not felt are generally photographs that require long reading but feels more emotional. Direct sunlight or backlight provides harsh contrast photos. Soft light hours and complex subjects often create photographs rich in grayscale.
In color photographs, the human brain tries to make sense of colors and draws a conclusion from the colors that were previously coded to it. The codes of red, green and yellow are separate. There is no prejudice in which gray tones directly correspond to the brain, which gives black and white an abstract reality.
One of the most important advantages of black and white photography over color photographs is the use of the heat of light. In color shots, it is compulsory to adjust the white balance according to the color temperature of the light, because the temperature of the light coming from different light sources on objects whose color is known cannot be fully corrected by the machines, but there is no problem in black and white photographs because there is no color. In other words, the lightning of an object with candle flame or fluorescent or sun is not perceived as a difference or a mistake. It gives the freedom to lighten the object we will photograph with the lighting tool we want.
One method that photojournalists frequently use in black and white photographs is the grains. While it is often an undesirable effect in color photographs, they add a dramatic effect to black and white photographs. While it can be achieved by leaving the ISO value high during shooting, the very good sensor qualities in today’s machines now require it to increase to values such as 1600-3200. My advice is to use the grain structure of old films, especially in simulation programs. Especially Ilford HP5 400 ASA film is my personal preference. Grainy structure will increase emotion in the subjects dominated by dark tones.
What has been mentioned so far were little tips to make the photographs we will obtain in black and white photography stronger, of course, the main factor is to have full light, composition and technical knowledge. Whether it is color or black and white in all photos, we have to provide the correct exposure.
If you need more ideas, technique, tips and tutorials you can check our Photography page here.
May your light be bright. Stay healthy.