Seeing in Black and White

Ever since I downloaded Topaz B&W Effects, I’ve had a renewed interest in making black and white images.  I’ve been reading a lot about, and experimenting with “seeing” in B&W.

Mystic, CT in B&W

Mystic, CT in B&W

Most of us as photographers see in color: tones, saturation, combinations and even “favorites”.  Like bees to flowers, we are drawn to colors.  So much so that we sometimes forget to see other important photographic elements, like textures and shapes, light and shadows.

Texture in B&W

Texture in B&W

But seeing in black and white is another matter.  When we train our eye (and brain) to see past the color, we are able to see these other important elements.

Shapes in B&W

Shapes in B&W

On a recent weekend trip to Mystic, CT, I made a concerted effort to see past the colors, and to look for interesting elements like patterns and contrast that would render well in B&W.

Contrast in B&W

Contrast in B&W

All images were shot in color and converted later in post production, which I recommend even though your camera may have a B&W mode.  The reasons are two-fold: First, when you shoot in B&W mode, the camera makes the decisions about how to convert the tones in the scene.  But when you convert in post, you control the conversion, and solid B&W converters like Topaz B&W Effects or Nik Silver Efex Pro give you loads of options and infinite possible outcomes.  Second, not every photo will result in the perfect B&W – but may be excellent in color.  Keep your options open.

Patterns in B&W

Patterns in B&W

Like the blind person whose other senses become more acute, our goal is to see through the colors, and fine-tune our ability to see lines, patterns, shapes, and textures.

Lines in B&W

Lines in B&W

I’m still learning and welcome your feedback.  Share your experiences in seeing in black and white and your favorites too.  And thanks for visiting 2 Guys Photo.   Posted by Ed

About Ed Spadoni "Thoughts and opinions, resources and experiences… for emerging photographers everywhere."
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7 Responses to Seeing in Black and White

  1. Ed,
    thanks for this, and good images as well, as always.
    However, when I set my Olympus E-520 to B&W mode, the preview on the display is B&W, which helps “seeing in B&W” IMHO. Also, the out-of-camera jpg is B&W. But the raw file, opened in anything other than the Olympus Viewer 2 software, still has all the original colors.

  2. Billie King says:

    This was great Ed…thanks – I think I’ll look into it.

  3. Rodney says:

    Interesting photos Ed. I love Black and White photography. You would think I would do more of it since I am color “blind”… more of a deficiency than blindness, but I am always curious if I see things differently than other photogs. Thanks for sharing you intake and photos on this arena. My personal favorite is the lamp. I love the texture in it, something black and white brings out I think. The black and white grates are interesting as well. Something I wouldn’t even notice walking by or over it.

    cheers, Rodney

  4. Donna McCommon says:

    Ed, I’ve been experimenting with Topaz BW. I’m enjoying it so far but have a lot more to learn. Thanks for giving a wonderful demonstration of BW photos.

  5. Pingback: Traveling through time: appreciating black & white photography | 2 Guys Photo

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