I’m a big fan of black-and-white photography. Perhaps it’s the poignancy that captivates me, or maybe the nostalgia factor. Whatever the reason, there’s something about the absence of color that draws me in.
Black-and-white or grayscale images are often called monochromatic. The word monochromatic is defined as "of or having one color." But while the term is used for grayscale photography, it can include a much broader body of work, as well. Although a monochromatic palette only includes a limited number of shades, the tones of the single (or near single) color you choose to use in your photographs is entirely up to you and can cover the entire spectrum of the color chart.
Personally, I gravitate toward neutral hues, and my tendency toward the monochromatic runs deeper than just photography, as it’s often visible in my wardrobe choices, as well as my dinner plate. I have a habit of wearing tan and tan, and this uncanny way of cooking up (literally) an entire meal of one solitary shade. Despite what you may think, it’s totally unplanned. But there has to be something to it because I often find myself shooting photographs in much the same way.
There’s something compelling about capturing a color image that’s washed so completely in a single shade that you might question whether it’s a color shot at all. I’m pretty sure that with tones like these, I’m left feeling serene and still. I know that most of my tonal choices offer a sense of serenity, the kind of feeling I like to carry with me amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life.
But what happens when you opt for a more bold monochromatic choice? For as much as neutral tones can bring calm and tranquility to an image, so, too, can rich, vibrant options. As you shoot with a limited palette, remember that with color comes emotion. When you use specific colors, you can elicit all kinds of responses from the viewer. Depending on what your intention is, you can totally control the intensity of your image just by your use of color in your shot.