The importance of black-and-white images.
When photography was invented, all photographs were monochrome (black and white, blue and white, and brown and white), using the available materials of the time. Nowadays, “black-and-white photographs can be a lot of things. They can exist in the commercial realm, they can be fine art, they can be documentary or scientific in nature, they can be made on film or digitally,” explains photographer and teacher Tina Tryforos. While shooting in color on your camera or smartphone is always an option, pursuing black-and-white photography is a great way to explore the art form.
Black-and-white photos are a helpful way for beginners to learn the art of photography. By eliminating the complexity of color, you can better understand your camera tools and explore how light, aperture, ISO, and shutter speed affect each other. “Making photos in black and white can immediately change the way we view and interpret those images,” says artist and professor Ariel Wilson. Creating black-and-white images can let you approach photography as an art form, a study in light and composition, instead of as a way to document your life for social media.
Black-and-white photography tips.
Find inspiration in shades of gray.
Before jumping in and creating photos, look at the work of other artists working in black and white. Explore famous, historic work, like Fan Ho’s black-and-white street photography of Hong Kong in the 1950s and 1960s. Famous black-and-white landscape photography, like the work of Ansel Adams, is another well from which you can draw inspiration. Or check out art with a clear message, like the work of black-and-white photographer and nature conservationist Nick Brandt. Find work that inspires you, and observe the techniques those artists used. When you know what style of images you like, it’s easier to make photos that you’ll like too.