BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY – Photography Tip #15

When I saw the day was going to be overcast with ice and snow on our second day in Zion National Park, I thought it would present a perfect opportunity to capture some really nice black and white photography shots.  But, it also caused me to wonder, what makes a good black and white photo? With that in mind, let me offer a few tips in producing a good black and white picture:

  1. Unless you’re shooting in RAW, always shoot in color.  While most digital cameras offer the option of shooting in black and white, you will have more control over your final presentation if you have the color data to work with in your post production processing.
  2. Shoot with the lowest possible ISO setting.  While this is something that most of us do in color photography, it is particularly important when it comes to black and white where noise created by ISO can become even more obvious. If you’re interested in “noise or grain” for effect, you can always add it later in your post production – but it’s harder to go the other way and take noise out.
  3. While a cloudy and overcast day can be bothersome for photographers looking to shoot vibrant, sun-lit colors, it can be the perfect day for some outdoor black and white photography.  I believed that to be the case when I captured these shots.
  4. Most of the general tips for composing a good photography shot in color apply just as well to black and white photography – however the obvious difference is that in color you’re unable to use the brilliance of the color to lead the eye into or around your shot. This means you need to train yourself to look at shapes, tones and textures in your frame as points of interest. Pay particular attention to shadows and highlights which will become a feature of your shot.

The shots below were taken with a black and white presentation in mind.  However for the purpose of black and white education, I thought it would be interesting to examine the same shot in a color presentation to determine if I/you would still feel strongly about the black and white.  So, once again I would ask you to offer your preference either specifically or in general as to the Black and White presentation (B&W) or the Color presentation (C).

1 B&W

1 C

2 B&W

2 C

3 B&W

3 C

4 B&W

4 C

5 B&W

5 C

I do realize there is an enormous amount of personal preference in making these choices.  That’s what makes photography so interesting and attractive!  I still believe personal preference to be the greatest characteristic freedom within the art of photography!

And so now, with this post we say goodbye to Zion National Park.  It was a great shoot!

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~ by photographyfree4all on January 8, 2011.

26 Responses to “BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY – Photography Tip #15”

  1. I have to say that I enjoy the color versions as much as
    the B&W. Why? Because the weather and lighting have muted
    the color quality to give it a tinted effect. Two through five now
    remind me of antique postcards! ~ Lynda PS: Thanks for sharing to
    color versions with us. (I have a huge collection of antique
    postcards!)

    Like

  2. I definitely agree with this, as I mentioned on your last
    post. The B&W can really help to bring out the structure of
    a photo and you’ve chosen great shots to illustrate that! There are
    actually some for which I find the B&W only slightly more
    interesting imo than the colour. In fact, in the case of the 3rd, I
    actually prefer the colour version: You’ve got a nice unity of warm
    muted tones which makes for a great composition! The one that I
    really find needs the B&W is the 4th, since there isn’t
    such a good balance of colours. This is what I mean when I say that
    colour can distract from composition, and in this shot I think the
    B&W works to perfection! The same applies to a lesser
    extent for the 5th, as although the C is not uninteresting, I find
    the B&W has a real zen quality to it! Also, I think the 1st
    really illustrates how B&W wan bring out detail! There’s
    such a difference between the C and the B&W: In the latter,
    the stronger contrast really brings out the beautiful intricacies
    and the tonal subtleties! So I’d say I prefer the B&W
    versions for 1,2,4 and 5 and the colour for 3. Then again it’s just
    my opinion! Excellent post and stunning photos, Steve! Hats
    off!

    Like

  3. By looking at all the photos in b&w and color I
    realize that #1 , #4 and #5 are better in color. It is not much
    color due to the grayness of the day but enough that it brought out
    the details of the picture. In #2 and #3 I didn’t notice much
    different between b&w and color. My favorite of all the
    picture is…. “the bridge” in color. I would hang it my living
    room anyday. Thanks for showing us the comparisons between
    B&W and color. I was surprised that there was not bigger
    difference.

    Like

  4. I don’t know. I went back after reading the other posts and
    looked at them again. it is really hard to choose between B
    & W and color. Each one is beautiful.Each way shows
    different aspects of the shot.

    Like

  5. It’s difficult to chose, since the original colour versions have such a muted and restricted colour range. For the landscape shots, I’d probably lean a little more to the colour side, but that’s mostly because they remind me of old toned monochrome prints 🙂

    Like

  6. I’m having a tough time choosing. I actually like both versions of each for a variety of reasons. I wasn’t sure about #4 in color until I looked at the larger version. It reminds me of a painting.

    Thank you for the tips. 🙂 They are very helpful.

    I would add that sometimes a cloudy day is the best time for color photography as it can make the colors pop. But it has to be the right kind of cloudiness, dark and gloomy not light and white (which tends to produce shots that look overexposed). I’ve also noticed that on winter days, when there is snow and ice, sometimes color shots look almost black & white because the colors are so muted.

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  7. On second thoughts, having freshened my mind, I think the last one of the bridge looks just as good in colour! It’s hard to choose… In the end I guess it’s up to you ;)!

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  8. Thank you for mentioning this aspect of cloudy photography, Robin! I failed to mention the fact that cloudy days are perfect for certain photography! I would much prefer a cloudy day for shooting flower close-ups! You’re so right – the colors simply pop under those conditions – and the shadows are much more manageable. I would also choose a cloudy day for portrait photography for many of the same reasons. For landscape, I like the sun – especially early and later in the day.

    This is why I love ytour comments – they always add to the posts!! Great job!

    Like

  9. In 2 and 3 I like the B&W but the others are equally beautiful in either color or B&W. I agree with you and usually take mine in color and work from there. Thanks for your tips and for sharing.
    God Bless.

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  10. You’re absolutely right about the colors being mutes by the conditions – and the fact that that makes them uniquely interesting. I love antique postcards! They carry so many timeless memories of a time gone by! Thanks for another great comment, Lynda!!

    Like

  11. What a great comment, Kai! And so much detail in your reply! It really is interesting to see what you see and listen to your reasoning behind your choices! This is a huge help to me, Kai! Thank you! And you detailed explanations help me to look for certain aspects when I’m shooting! Great comment – as always! Thanks!

    Like

  12. Sometimes the color brings out subtle details possibly missed in the B&W, Miss Betty! Thank you for sharing your preferences! I, too, really like the bridge! Thank you for your wonderful comments!

    Like

  13. Ah…a second look always causes you to see things left unseen before! Thanks, Miss Betty!!

    Like

  14. I think it’s difficult because everyone’s tastes are different, Journey! You’re the second person to remark about the antique look because of the muted colors. I think that’s appealing in its own way! Thank you for sharing this information with us! Great comment.

    Like

  15. I have shot some of my most vivid color in the overcast – when it comes to flowers, Robin. That’s a great point. And yes, I’m having a tough time choosing as well! 🙂 Your comment reminded me of why I love comments! Everyone together brings out the most information possible! Thanks for doing that here, Robin!

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  16. I have found myself going back and forth, too, Kai! I think I like both presentations of the bridge! Thanks!

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  17. Great addition to this post, Gwyn! I was just saying to Kai, I tend to like both presentations in most fo the shots and would be very happy with either. Thank you for stopping by, Gwyn!

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  18. Nice, I think that 2,3 and 4 have good appeal in colour as well!
    On overcast days, if you are not taking landscape or wide images and tend to focus more on details, the colours tend to pop out a bit more 🙂

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  19. Thank you for bringing this fact to light, Michael. That’s what was missing from this tip. You can get vibrant color on a cloudy day if you’re shooting the right subjects. Great addition to this post! What I’ve learned is this: There’s always something you can photograph – and photograph well – in any weather! So, get out there and shoot! 🙂 Great job Michael. Thanks!

    Like

  20. Hello again and Happy New Year to you too..
    As always very interesting reading your blog. I like how you say:
    “I still believe personal preference to be the greatest characteristic freedom within the art of photography!”
    Love that, as we all have our personal style and that is great it will never be boring this way. Just looking at the pictures in your blog and seeing the different landscapes that are very interesting to me. As I am not a professional photographer, neither do I have the camera for taking special shots. I just enjoy taking pictures. So thanks for all the info you have for us and sharing your pictures and the differences in them too.
    Jacqueline

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  21. Thank you for such a kind comment, jacqueline. I am learning there is a lot of freedom in photography! I find the easiest way for me to capture a good landscape is to capture what looks really amazing to me! If I can then translate that into a shot that contains the elements grabbing my attention, chances are it will grab yours as well. I really do appreciate your comment! Each comment adds to the original post to complete the idea!! Great job! I hope your new year is progressing well.

    Like

  22. The photographs are gorgeous and thank you for sharing the
    fabulous trip with us. I like 1 in b/w and 2, 3, 4, and 5 in color.
    I prefer color photos, but I love the b/w contrast in 1.

    Like

  23. Thank you, Loann! These last few posts having been a tremendous help in seeing perspectives from other people. I’m sure when I am out there shooting away at some future landscape, many of your comments will come to my mind. In turn, that will tend to help each future shot that I capture. Thank you for sharing your comments here! I love it!

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  24. Hello again…I just checked out all of your Zion photographs. So beautiful!! I have been out of the loop. We were up in Bodega Bay enjoying Northern California 🙂 Thanks for sharing all of your photographs.

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  25. No. 1 is best in color – no. 2 and 3 are good in both color and b&w – the last photos are best in b&w!

    Like

  26. Great observation, Truels! I would probably agree – vertainly with the last photos! Thanks for jumping in here!

    Like

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