Black and White

Photography is a magical medium. A photo is a representation of a moment frozen in space and time, a fraction of a second that was captured in silver halide or pixels. It is a visual experience for anyone who views it, and as such should invoke an emotional response, thought or reaction from the viewer. Color photography has it much easier, so to speak. Bright vivid colors can distract from poor composition, lack of technical prowess, mistakes made in camera, post processing mistakes, or what have you. Mistakes, even obvious ones, are often easier to overlook or not catch at all in a color photograph.

There is no such forgiveness in the realm of black and white. Black and white's have to hold their own without any aid from spectral acuity. A black and white has to be able to invite the viewer in, convey what the photographer might have been feeling as well as a glimpse into what was seen at the instant of capture. The camera is simply a device to capture light, so it is incapable of conveying emotions. It's up to the photographer to make it happen in the photos he or she takes. The shot has to be technically proficient enough to stand out and hold its own. Black and white photography to me is an art form all its own and it requires serious study and practice.

A serious photographer should never take black and white photos for the mere ‘sake’ of having taken some black and white photos. The pursuit of black and white photography sharpens any photographer who works with it long enough. It dials in ones composition skills, ability to judge light, contrast, form, texture, and even mood. By nature of design, it makes you a much better photographer and gives you a broader understanding of photography. Learning to see and capture a monotone with a complete tonal range is something all of us photographers should strive for at some point. Some things simply don't translate well in color, but make outstanding monochromes! Learning to spot them takes time, patience and practice. It almost seems that the more unusual the subject matter, the better the black and white.

When you reach the pinnacle of being a decent black and white photographer, your color photography snaps into place. If you are a struggling color photographer, I highly recommend studying and shooting black and white for a while. You will be pleasantly surprised at the giant leap forward into the next level that it will take you!

Good photography will always look good today or one thousand years from today!

Dixon Springs State Park - Infrared - Illinois
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