DOCUMENTATIONThroughout history, poignant photographic stories have been told through a monochromatic lens. Wide angles, deep depth of field, a telling moment captured in a single shot; these are the quintessential elements of documentary photography. When I've shot with this storytelling technique in mind, there's no other treatment that could possibly heighten the style more than black-and-white. Nothing represents the genre of documentary photography and candid visual storytelling more perfectly.
ILLUMINATIONGiven the choice, I'll usually opt for shooting in soft golden light. Using the word "golden" might be indicative of a scene that likely will end as a color photograph. But even the softest, most beautifully colored light translates well monochromatically. In contrast, more dramatic, harsh light (strong shadows and bright highlights) can be as beautiful in black-and-white, as well. Oftentimes, the blacks and the whites bring attention to the elements that go unnoticed and underappreciated when they're seen in color. I find myself able to best study light and its many nuances through monochromatic eyes.
Tracey Clark is the founder of SHUTTER SISTERS, a collaborative photo blog and thriving community of female photo enthusiasts. Learn more about Tracey and her work at www.traceyclark.com.
THEMES AND SUBJECTS TO CONSIDER
|Landscapes: You can't beat the textures and visual interest of landscapes as depicted through black-and-white processing. Use the vast range of a grayscale palette.
Sky/Clouds: No other processing can cover the range of tones (from white to black and everything in between) like the monochromatic treatment of a cloud-filled sky.
Portraits: Classic, timeless, moving—portraits in black-and-white offer visual impact and emotional response.
Details: The little things that often go overlooked can be brought into focus by stripping away everything that might compete with them (including color).
Architecture: The elements in architecture (line, repetition, shape and angle) are perfectly suited for black-and-white photography.
Macro Shots: Curious and intriguing, getting up-close and personal using black-and-white can bring an unexpected intimacy to your shot.
Ordinary Objects: Find the beautiful in the mundane by using a monochromatic treatment. You'll be amazed at how extraordinary ordinary life can look.