We often hear about how black and white photography is a different experience for many photographers, and how it trains us to look at scenes differently. By stripping away the colors, we are forced to simplify our creative vision and focus on what’s important: the composition. In today’s featured video, Pierre Lambert reminds us exactly how shooting in black and white improves our composition, and thus, our photography.
At first, some of us may be think that black and white photography simply involves using the monochrome or black and white mode of our camera, capturing what we think is an interesting scene, and that’s it. But that can’t be farther from the truth, as many of the black and white photography tutorials we’ve shared in the past also say. As Pierre pointed out in his video, simplifying the scene through monochrome allows us to focus more on the subject or the story instead of the entire scene. By taking away the myriad of information provided by the surrounding colors, we tend to better identify and understand what we want to talk about in our shots.
Another benefit of the simplification that happens with black and white photography is that it emphasizes our subject. A common problem with most photography today is how there’s no clear subject to draw our attention. The colors may be nice, the exposure is perfect, the framing looks good, but what is it really about? In a monochrome shot, you can better isolate your subject through clever use of contrast.
Lastly, shooting in monochrome is also good training for street portraits (or portraits in general, for that matter) because it allows you to concentrate on the emotions of the people you’re photographing. Our eyes tend to get distracted by all the colors and how they affect the mood of the shot. But with black and white, both the light and shadows emphasize and enhance the emotion conveyed by the subject.
Of course, you can shoot black and white straight from your camera, but be mindful of your composition and how you focus on a subject or tell a story with it. You also have the option to use post-processing to see if a color photo you’ve already taken “works” better in monochrome. Rendering it in black and white may let you see where the contrast of your photo is strongest and help you decide if it’s a strong subject or not.
Check out Pierre Lambert’s YouTube channel if you found his tips helpful and want to see more of his photography videos.