When I mention notable photographers like Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and Michael Kenna, what pops into your mind’s eye? If you thought “masterfully orchestrated fine art black and white photography,” you’d be correct.
The work of Ansel Adams and Michael Kenna, along with that of Herb Ritts, influenced my approach to black and white imaging when I took photography in high school. Nearly failing every class in high school, I was not the best student. I found school dull and uninspiring, excelling only in the photography courses available. We learned exposure basics while using cameras like the Canon AE1 and Pentax K1000. I loved every minute of learning how to process film and prints in the darkroom, secretly wishing that I could quit school and focus my time and energy on pursuing photography.
Not only did I fall in love with photography in high school, but I also fell in love with a girl the moment I saw her in our 9th-grade art class. Day in and day out, my two passions consumed me, and I pursued them with equal focus throughout high school. The girl not only became my high school sweetheart in 10th grade, but also my wife and the mother of our nine children. Both she and photography are still with me to this day; I am a lucky man.
Like anyone obsessed with photography, I spent all my time photographing everything I could, studying and mimicking the work of the masters. I would take hikes and photograph nature, landscapes, abstracts. I would create portraits of my sweetheart constantly, developing and printing the images in the school darkroom. One print that I still have today I made of her as part of her graduation photos.
Fast forward to May of 2000, I converted my photography business to a 100% digital workflow using the Fujifilm S1 Pro. While this was a good camera for the color photos I was producing for wedding and portrait clients, my personal work was still with black and white film. Loving the new digital process, I spent my free time learning the best ways to process my digital color files to black and white for printing as “fine art” giclee (i.e., inkjet) prints.
Twenty years have passed, and while I am still learning, I have found the best way to get masterful black and white results with the least amount of steps is by easily tweaking color channels in the “Black and White tool pallet” within Capture One Pro. This is not an ad for C1; having used Lightroom, Photoshop, and many other programs over the years, I prefer the look, feel, and quality of my images when processed utilizing this program.
Black and white photography will forever stand out in a sea of color images. Its emotion, simplicity, and timelessness inspire the viewer to slow down and drink in the photograph.
If you want to level-up your black and white process, please consider watching my free tutorial below.
In it, I share my effortless black and white processing workflow while editing various images within Capture One Pro. Using the minimalistic approach I share will provide you with the confidence to produce photographs you will be proud to share and print.
Be sure to check out John Magnoski Photography.