Friday, December 14, 2012

The Beckoning Of Black & White

I was a film photographer long before—and even after—digital photography became mainstream.
Text & Photography By Tracey Clark Published in Shooting
The Beckoning Of Black & White


I shoot a ton of images of my everyday life: a pair of shoes, a stack of books, a plate of food, a mug of coffee. In all of these things I look for shape, texture and, of course, light. When you take these mundane objects and compose them in an interesting way, sometimes the color actually can be distracting and take away from the overall shot. I choose to keep simple subjects simple by removing any elements that distract either in framing the shot or processing it. When the color doesn't make the image stronger, I just remove it.


Certain shots are more inclined to packing a dramatic punch than others. They usually begin with a subject that has powerful potential of intense emotion and end with a bold editing choice that emphasizes the impact and evokes a mood. Through use of contrasting blacks and whites, the drama of the image can be intensified. This kind of image unmistakably warrants a monochromatic manipulation for that "wow factor." People, places, things—it makes no difference. It's the energy and intensity of the image that calls the shot.


I know it as soon as I shoot it; the kind of distilled moment in time that will always take me back to that very minute, no matter when I revisit it. Sometimes they're soft and slightly out of focus due to motion or me being unprepared right when I pressed my shutter. In other images, the scene is in perfect focus, each detail outlined and clear like a quintessential documentary shot. In these cases, it's not about focus, it's about nostalgia. There's no better way to create that timeless feeling and evoke that kind of melancholic longing than by painting the fleeting memory with a monochromatic palette.


The use of line, shape and repetition can make for strong images. Arranging these common elements of composition in just the right way in the frame is often all you need to create strong visual photography. Nothing works better to emphasize the orderly and linear pieces in the shot than a range of black to white and the grayscale in between. The treatment allows you to appreciate how the shot has been carefully configured.


Sometimes an image is so perfectly telling (through an expression, for example) that it feels timeless. Even still, there might be elements within the frame that make it look dated. Whether it's the color of the furniture or a logo on a T-shirt, the color doesn't match the timeless nature of the image. The quickest fix I can think of, and often use, is the black-and-white fix. It's simple, instantaneous and can transform a dated shot into a timeless treasure.
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