Saturday, 11 April 2009

Why is it important for serious photographers to master b/w?

There are certain shots in b/w that really concentrate your mind on the bare essentials. A good example is this great shot from Skyhunter.

I think that to be a great colour photographer (which I'm not - yet), you've got to master b/w first. Without colour to flood your senses, you have to concentrate on what's left - the bare essentials of light and line, texture and tone, pattern and form and, finaly, composition - they way they all interact with each other in the frame.

Look at the photo linked above (opens in a separate tab) - with no colour, what have you got?

Well, to me, there's some uniform texture (not much to concentrate on there, then) the lines of the landscape and they way they flow (lovely interacting / balancing curves); then there's the interesting way the light falls across the scene, giving contour to the land with tonal changes across the full range, from deep black to some highlights of pure white.

Not really a whole lot to concentrate on in making the shot, so with better focus of the mind, how can you not produce well-composed shots with no unintended distractions? It's so in-yer-face with b/w, you quickly learn how to crack the whip and get these elements performing as you want.

I think in mastering b/w, you can then bring all those learnings to colour. A masterful colour shot not only has to have all the colour relationships right but also all those non-colour attributes as well.

I'm in danger of rambling now, but you know what I mean :)

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