Exercise 15: Black and White

From the beginning black and white photography has fascinated me. Personally even in fashion I think black and white has the most stunning styles. That does not mean I do not favour colours. I love colours too. Probably this creates the confusion and restricts me for trying out more of B & W in photography.

I feel calling it just B & W photography is little inaccurate. There are very few examples when a photo is just B & W. Mostly it is various degrees of both the colours mixed to gather to form different shades of grey. Of course, it also has presence of B & W in it. Varying degree of grey shades make images interesting. At times, full colour photograph can also fail to stimulate similar effect on the viewers.

After looking at the exercise description and bit of reading about B & W photography, I started observing everyday places for the opportunity to make B & W images. I had gone for a casual coffee with my husband. I was carrying my camera and had plans to capture few shots for this particular exercise. There were many different subjects that came to my mind, and created confusion. Hence before going out, I decided that I would restrict my shooting time. That meant I could only make a picture in and around the mall where we were planning to have coffee. I also chose to concentrate on the shapes and patterns. This compelled me to be more creative and look for the shapes, lighting and picture situations, which I hadn’t explored.

While entering the parking lot, I saw beautiful play of light and lovely shapes. Well to be honest I had noticed this on my earlier visits too. However, it had not looked so appealing in colour.

Ex 15 B & W-1

Exposure: 1/125 sec @ f/4.0, ISO: 500, Focal length 105mm, Handheld

In the above picture, I especially like the play of light. It was light that drew my attention to the beautiful geometric patterns. Lines and texture on the wall also brings in a moody effect to the picture.

Ex 15 B & W-2

Exposure: 1/30 sec @ f/7.1, ISO: 640, Focal length 87mm, Handheld

Our coffee extended to a nice sushi lunch, we went to the 5th floor restaurant. I notice this pillar while waiting for our table. I have zoomed in to capture this image. If I had zoom out to make this picture, it would have looked very ordinary and boring. In general even in the original form the colours were muted. Pillar has a sliver tone however, the ceiling had a tint of yellow, and that was the only distracting thing. When I converted the image to the B & W the colour distraction is gone and attention is diverted to the diversity of the lines and shapes. I wish there was a way to avoid the reflections of the spotlights on the both sides of the pillar. That could have resulted in a smoother transition of the grey tones.

Ex 15 B & W-3

Exposure: 1/20 sec @ f/7.1, ISO: 640, Focal length 51mm, Handheld

The restaurant had this beautiful Japanese lamp. Due to being close to a big glass window lamp was very well lit, and the background was bit dark. That helped to isolate the shape. I wish I had an off camera flash or a reflector to reflect some light on the background. That would have helped to reduce the dynamic range, thus resulting in less noise in the dark areas. That could have also made the patterns in the background more visible and made the image more interesting.

To see my other B & W photographs, please click on the link below.



This exercise makes it apparent that in B & W photography a strong pre-visualization is the key to the success. Seeing something and then imagining it in monochrome takes practice. It requires sound technical knowledge of photography and a creative mind. (Chris Butcher, 2011, chapter 1- Page 5) mentions in his book ‘Black and White Photography’ that “removing the colour from an images enables the viewer to see the essential part of that images – the textures, tones, shapes and composition all without the distraction of colour”. When it comes to this exercise, I feel the above statement is absolutely appropriate. In past, intuitively I have chosen to use black and white treatment for certain images. However in the future I will develop the habit to use this process after a methodical assessment.


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