Brad Walls Uses a Drone to Create Unique Photos of Ballerinas

All images by Brad Walls. Used with permission. Want to submit to Photo Essays? Click here for the Guidelines.

Initially inspired by an image by Olive Cotton, “Teacup ballet”, Brad Walls began exploring the concept in early 2020, pinning ideas to a virtual inspiration board that consisted of shadows, shapes and tutus, stating that “Most people had seen Ballet photographed traditionally… and while those photos are undeniably beautiful, I wanted to rewrite the composition, purely focusing on the unique shapes and shadows of the art form.” Offering an alternate view is the foundation of Walls’ work; however, he also innately knew that “ballerine de l’air” would be a gallery-worthy body of work. “I had photographed people from above – including Olympians and models – and while those shots were very compelling, I knew here that combining such a prestigious art form with an alternate view would truly be the embodiment of my work,” says Walls.

Continue reading…

​Exploring the Self-Esteem of the Photographer on Social Media

On top of all the questions surrounding photography today, Shaun La asks, “What about the self-esteem of a photographer on social media?”

Social media is an ocean of unofficial experts and critics. It’s also a deep place with a lot of photographs due to social media relying on the visual grammar of instant gratification explaining to viewers, what, when, where, and how. Photography has been smacked with so many redefining elements that it would be solid to ask, what is a good, or even a great photograph? Who is a famous photographer? What is a professional photographer? On top of all of these questions would be: what about the self-esteem of a photographer on social media?

Continue reading…

An Argument for Shooting Your Photos in Black and White JPEGs

Every photographer that knows what they’re doing often shoots in RAW.

Why? Well, you take the images, edit them to just the way that you want them, and then export. That’s it. It’s done. No matter what is said, Jared Polin is pretty right about this. But if you come from a film shooter’s mentality and don’t often develop your own film, then I think that not shooting in black and white JPEG is doing yourself a great injustice of sorts. Let’s start from the top with the culture of photographers who shoot film, scan their TIFF files as flat as possible, and then bring them into a computer to edit. In 2018, this is more or less superfluous. Digital photography and cameras are more than adept enough to do this and if you’re going to edit your TIFFs or JPEGs after you get them back, then you should probably just be shooting digital. Why? Because software like Lightroom or Capture One is designed to edit RAW files. It’s just what they do. Film’s original intention wasn’t to be scanned. it was to be printed. With black and white film, you’re best off taking the film after you’ve shot it, develop it yourself based on what you want the entire roll to be like, and then printing. After that, you can scan the print to digitize it.

Continue reading…

Black and White Photography is Truly The Best Way to Embrace Image Noise And You Shouldn’t Be Ashamed About it

Editor’s Note: This is one of La Noir Image’s free blog posts. You can subscribe for as little as $15/year. But there are more goodies at the higher tiers.

Years ago, there were photographers who used to tell me that converting an image to black and white just to save it from high ISO noise is the lazy way to go about working with the image. And further, if the image couldn’t be de-noised, then throw it out. You failed. There wasn’t another chance. You should be ashamed. But that toxicity is really just that–toxicity. It’s an old world mentality that was probably formed and shaped by internet trolls and more toxicity that actually happened in real life. This was in the days of early digital. As I’ve grown older myself, I’ve learned that those statements are incredibly false and that it’s completely wrong of us as photographers to push this on newer artists. The primary goal is to create an image that people will like. That’s it. You goal isn’t to satisfy photographers–generally speaking lots of photographers won’t buy a print made by other photographers unless they’re some sort of great master.

And perhaps that’s one of the biggest problems in the photography world that we don’t understand and that we don’t care about enough.

When it comes to getting critiques, the mainstream way is to get critiques from other photographers online for free. That’s a fantastic way for photographers to do it when they’re just starting out. But when you want to go even further, you need to look at a different target audience. Photo Editors such as those at publications, are the ones who look at the images of other photographers all the time. That’s how you get better. And even then, to each their own. The Photo Editor of the NYTimes will look for something much different than the Photo Editor at GQ. You can’t sit there and say that you’ll see the images of Brad Pitt recently done for GQ anywhere in the NYTimes. They’re just completely different standards and yet their audiences tend to intersect in different ways.

All of this comes full circle back to the black and white photography world. If you’ve never heard the saying “Black and white is a weakness” then you’re pretty lucky. But the truth is in the end that if an image looks good in black and white, then it looks good in black and white. And no matter what, any photographer who made the effort to actually make their images look good no matter what should be applauded. It shouldn’t be shamed because it shows genuine effort instead of wanting to post something so incredibly, stupidly flawed. That’s not to say that there can’t be any sort of beauty found in flawed images, but in the case of digital cameras there usually isn’t vs film analog.

So why does a high ISO digital photo look good in black and white? Because very few people who may try to license or buy your image can tell the difference. It looks like film. Do you have any idea how many people are out there that think that their images look like film but they’re not actually film at all? You’d be shocked at the misinformation out there being abundant. However, to unfortunately play into it this conversion process lends itself to images that have a classic look and feel to them. They’re made astonishingly simple and that makes the mind’s eye happy. In the end, that’s what we care about.

Don’t think this matters? Let’s take the very famous Eddie Adams image of a General executing a rebel. Let’s think more about this. What do we see here? We see a man being assassinated. His hands are tied behind his back, he’s scared. He’s sorry. And there is nothing he can do. He’s hopeless. It’s a frightening moment. But at the same time, it’s a very shocking moment.

An image like this helped end the war because of its interpretation: all that people saw was a horrifying incident that haunted the general for years to come. It wasn’t Eddie’s intent, he was simply documenting the scene. Very few people really know or understand the story behind the image. And obviously, at the time people didn’t care. They’re more caught up with the content. As long as the content in the image is gripping, it’s bound to force emotions out of people. And in that way, you can cover up or embrace those flaws that others may be distracted by with a simple conversion to black and white.

20 Reasons Why You Need a Rangefinder Camera Right Now

Rangefinder cameras were once essential to photographers. But if you’re looking for a camera to start out with that will really, truly teach you the basics and force you to become a bigger part of the image making process, then seriously consider a rangefinder camera. With that said, here are 20 reasons why you should consider one.

  • They’re lightweight, so you can take them with you everywhere

  • You’ll actually want to take them everywhere with you

  • They’re quiet, but they let you know that you’ve taken a photo

  • Some of the best lenses ever made were made for rangefinder cameras

  • They can be had at relatively affordable prices and then be sold on the market for a higher price when the time comes around.

  • They allow a ton of precision when coupled with foresight

  • They force a photographer to be very into the scene in front of them

  • They’re a testament to ergonomics

  • Lots of them are completely mechanical, so they’ll work even without a battery of some sort

  • New and affordable lenses for Leica M mount are being made today

  • The lense can be easily adapted onto another mirrorless camera system

  • They can be used with complete ease on the streets and then with a radio flash mounted in the hot shoe, used in the studio with no problems.

  • Because modern film photography is fantastic

  • Film rangefinders look better with age. So they’re timepieces

  • They’re a truly compact, interchangeable lens camera system in most cases and you can tote around one or two lenses in a bag or jacket pocket in a completely low profile fashion.

  • Very few other systems have f0.95 lenses

  • They’re the ultimate teaching tool for any photographer just getting into it.

  • Rangefinder cameras hold their value for many years, so resale is better later on

  • Lots of them are incredibly reliable

  • Seriously, just try one.

Smartphone Images Are Good Enough For Museums Now

The other night I spent some time going to an event in Chelsea all the way in the middle of the gallery district. Every Thursday night you’re bound to find tourists and people genuinely interested in the arts hanging around. But this event was for Huawei, you know–the mobile phone maker. It was to celebrate two photographers who have done pretty good work with their phones.In some ways though, I just didn’t totally believe it. Well, I mean, I believe it. But what I didn’t totally understand was the curation. Many of the images were soft and at one point there was a photo with a dog and what was clearly some sort of fake depth of field effect. Then there was another with a faux tilt shift effect. And when I spoke to a rep about this, they said “Well, we wanted to be different.”

Absolutely; buying your way into a gallery in Chelsea is one way to surely do that.

Please note that there is no offense given to the photographers. When I went through their Instagrams I found a whole lot of their work to be pretty remarkable. But then some pieces I was questioning, though somehow or another these images would get hundreds of thousands of hearts. Crazy, right? What it reminded me of is this; your gear is fantastic. It’s very difficult to get faulty gear these days. But what matters in the end is the images you take. These phones were able to print larger images than I make at home with 17×22 inch paper. And they looked really good. Were the details missing a bit when you got up close? Yes, but not too terribly. Was there some weird color gradation? Oh heck yes at times.

Even further, what matters more is your own curation. Picking the right images for a story can be tough work. Then on top of that it is usually up to you to be discerning about the quality of how your work is presented. Making a print? Make a print that will make someone’s jaw drop and will make them want to buy your work.

Instagram Stories Are So Much Better Than Posts

There’s absolutely no secret to this: Instagram posts are at an all time low when it comes to interactivity with your own following. Photographers have been feeling the burn for awhile because it can make clients harder to find and to market to. But what photographers haven’t necessarily known is that Instagram stories is the big thing that helps counter that problem. How?Well, Instagram is becoming more and more of a platform that is putting emphasis on stories sort of like Snapchat. To that end, people tend to spend more time there than going through their actual feeds. Indeed, Instagram will probably show you something from weeks ago anyway. If you consider this, then it becomes even tougher for photographers to market themselves. The reason for this is because photographers have traditionally used their Instagram sort of as a curated dumping ground. So here’s what you’re supposed to do:
  • Keep your website
  • Keep your website’s blog
  • Keep your Instagram
  • Treat your Instagram in a different way
  • Treat your Facebook page in more or less the same way that you treat your Instagram

This idea is sort of a pyramid. So let’s go through it.

I want you to imagine the peak of a pyramid and that’s you. You are the person that is distributing content to everyone else. You’re creating images. But you have to get them out there to people. So to get them out there you first and foremost create a website portfolio of your own photography. These portfolios can be split up depending on the genre(s) that you cover. But in order for your website to stay relevant, it needs a blog. Why? Well, it’s one of the easiest and best ways to hack Google’s SEO and keywords. If someone is looking for a Charleston Based Portrait Photographer, you can go about buying adwords but that gets expensive over time. So instead you can create more and more content that Google needs to look at. Then you organically start to take over those search terms if you create the keyword rich content that always leads back to your website and blog.

Now, that’s sort of a given. One of the ultimate goals as a photographer when using Instagram is to get people to your website and book clients. You used to be able to do this with hashtags and putting out curated content. But now Instagram is killing reach. So in the same way that you try to feed your website with blog posts accordingly, you need to feed your Instagram portfolio. How do you do that? Think of Instagram stories and live feeds as your equivalent. BTS images and extra photos from your shoots can go there. When you go through your photos you should create three different subsets:

  • The images that will go into your actual portfolio: the smallest amount of them
  • The images from the shoot that will go on Instagram: This should be a larger selection but more curated
  • The images that will go into your blog posts and Instagram stories: The images will be used to tease all of the others.

No one image should be part of either batch. The creme de la creme should be on your website. The pretty good stuff should go on Instagram. The teaser content should be fed out into the social spheres like fleeting content. And that fleeting content is the start of bringing people into your web. Does this sound crazy? Oh lord yes, but at the moment of publishing this post there doesn’t really seem to be a better way.

How Ilford Delta 400 Became My Favorite Film for Street Photography (Premium)

I wish that when I first started exploring street photography with film that someone had told me all about Ilford Delta 400 before trying to shepherd me into the church Kodak Tri-X. But back then, years and years of guides online said that it was the absolute only way to go. As time has progressed, different voices have arisen and they don’t all say the same things. My voice, like many others, is the one that fell head over heels for the lineup of Ilford Delta films. To a photographer who grew up knowing digital but tried to stay away from everything film because it was “hipster” I regret that my mind was never open to a whole world of photography that both I and many others are still only now just exploring–but that those before us probably haven’t explored even fully.Kodak Tri-X 400 is inherently one of the best and most versatile black and white films ever made. Want to shoot street photography with it? You’re bound to get great photos. How about portraits? Yup, those work too. But growing up in the digital photography world and not really knowing or understanding darkroom processes taught me to look for other things. The way that I would process my digital photos to look in black and white weren’t what I’d get from Kodak Tri-X 400 or even my older favorite, Kodak 400 BW CN. There needed to be a grainy film that was sharp, crispy, and almost cinematic in its look. I came from the school of Magnum, and even though I’m still enamored with the film photos that many of those photographers produced, I’m not beholden to them. Every photographer taught us to find our own path and do our own thing. And part of that comes with experimentation. But today, photographers have lots of venues of experimentation. There is traditional digital, mobile phones, film, tintypes, etc.

For years I would only use Kodak Tri-X with mixed results. Did I like them? Yes. When I look back on those photos today, I’m still in love with them. But I didn’t do enough experimentation. Then one day, a roll of Ilford HP5 made its way to me and I was told to use it for street photography. To this day, I’m still not completely totally sure I understand why that was as it was from a photographer whose knowledge I still respect. Delta only truly came into my lap years after I had tried Ilford HP5. As you may have read in previous posts, I’ve never been the biggest fan of that film. But when Delta 400 came back to me after being shot in my Hexar AF, I was seriously hooked. The film and it’s inherent look reminded me of some gritty work done by Moriyama, but instead the images that were right in front of me had my own personal, unique take on the world around me.

For the first time, I had felt betrayed. Years and years of an industry and marketing teaching me that Kodak Tri-X 400 was the absolute best and that there is no reason for you to go out there and try anything else. Fujifilm Acros 400? Nah, they’d tell me that it’s worthless and to go Kodak Tri-X 400 or bust. But why? Was it because it’s just the general choice and overall it provides the most pleasing look of any film across the board? Was it because Ilford was relatively quiet back then and still are? It angered me. The anger turn into an unstoppable lust for more and more of this film. I’d find a way to get my hands on all the Ilford Delta 400 that I possibly could and run it through my Hexar AF like no tomorrow. I’d get loads of photos that I’d be smitten with and I’d spend hours and hours absolutely in love with the prints that I’d make at a larger size. But as my job would have it, I got pulled away from shooting film due to more work coming in.

Every now and again, I’d look back at those images that I shot on Delta 400. How could I have thought otherwise? How could something have been made to look so perfect? Why were there so many lies about the look and feel of the film? Is it just ignorance? Was it that people just haven’t looked at it all and understood what’s possible? Why couldn’t people have told me otherwise? More importantly, why weren’t there more resources online about any of this? Had Kodak paid everyone else off?

These questions raced through my mind. I didn’t understand any of it. To be honest, I still don’t understand any of it. I ran the Phoblographer for years believing that everything out there is great but that we all just need to choose what’s best for us. For me, Ilford Delta 400 was just that.

What’s so great about Ilford Delta 400? It’s a sharp film with quite a bit of contrast. There’s grain but not a whole lot of it. The blacks and nice and inky–which I haven’t really totally seen with much of Kodak Tri-X that I’ve shot. But mostly, I think that it’s because of the way that I learned to see and think about the world in black and white. In order to get the best black and white images for you, you need to have some sort of creative vision. You need to not just think about the world as monochrome, but you need to see a scene in black and white. You more importantly need to see the scene in a specific black and white. Then you need to find the film that lets you get that scene that you’ve got in your mind’s eye. But even beyond that, you need to know how to get that scene. You need to work with the scene. You need to have fun with it. You need to understand it. That’s something that many photographers struggle with: connecting the technical side of their brain with the artistic side of their brain. Perhaps this is why so many photographers sit there and just shoot in auto hoping that the camera will do it all for them. But that doesn’t always happen and that makes film even more unappealing for even more photographers.

But once you understand it, you get the scene that you want and dream about. For me, those scenes were made on Ilford Delta 400.

My Love/Hate Relationship with Ilford HP5 Plus 400 ISO Black and White Film (Premium)

The lead image of this blog post is perhaps the only image that I’ve loved and that I shot with Ilford HP5 Plus 400. For years, I remember it being marketed to me as a beautiful film for street photography when I was falling into love again with Rangefinder cameras. So when loaded up into my old Voigtlander Bessa R with a 50mm f1.5 lens, it yielded me some pretty nice images indeed and for a little while, ignorance was bliss. I tried Kodak Tri-X 400, then Ilford Delta 400, then Lomography’s Earl Grey 100 when pushed to ISO 400, then Japan Camera Hunter Street Pan 400, and then finally Kodak TMax 400. The reason though why this one image is my favorite that I’ve shot with Ilford HP5 Plus 400 doesn’t really have to do with the film, but instead with the moment simply being a beautiful, candid one during a party in Bushwick. Now of course, I understand that the image is still the image is still the image. There is no denying that. But beyond just capturing or creating a moment on film, there is something to be said about personal aesthetics which then create a feeling and a mood based on a photographer’s personality and a viewer’s interpretation.

Why someone told me that it’s a great film for street photography is honestly a bit beyond my comprehension. But I don’t think that it is. I’d like to think of Ilford HP5 to be the black and quite equivalent of Kodak Portra 400–yet another film that I tend to have a love/hate relationship with. Ilford HP5 has a great look and beautiful skin tones to it. But some photographers, like Portra, tend to just use it for everything. Personally, I’m of the belief that Superia is a superior (pun intended) color film for Street Photography while Portra 400 works better for portraits. At the same time, I’m more partial to Delta 400 or Kodak Tri-X 400 for street photography. Ilford HP5 Plus 400 is right up there with Kodak TMax 400 to me when it comes to portraiture.


This not only has to do with the subject matter involved but how you tend to approach your subject matter and photographing them. With portraits, there is a very careful setup when it comes to lighting, posing, choosing locations, etc. Like Kodak TMax 400, it believe it to be more of a creator’s film. But Delta 400 and Tri-X are more aligned to being a film that could be for the person that prefers to capture moments rather than trying to create them. For the most part, I feel like this about many films. You wouldn’t try to shoot a wedding with Velvia 50 and you wouldn’t typically shoot a brightly lit festival during the day with a film like Delta 3200.

In the darkroom, different things can be done with the film to make it look one way or another. Want more grain? Try Rodinal. Otherwise Ilford makes some very good developers.

As we all know, film looks better in larger formats. 35mm is alright, but it won’t compare to 120 and that won’t compare to large format. But unfortunately, what seems to sell the most is 35mm format simply because of its ease of use and the prevalence of how many cameras there are on the market. Our parents shot 35mm film. I didn’t know about or even shoot with 120 film until I was entering my mid-20s. So with this understanding, why then do I not like Ilford HP5 Plus film?

Well, let’s take a look.


JCH Street Pan

The image above is from Japan Camera Hunter Street Pan 400 and shot on 35mm film. How it differs from HP5 is that this film is slightly infrared and somehow or another has some very deep, inky blacks. It’s beautiful. It’s sharp. It’s contrasty. And it gives me a look that I feel reflects my creative vision of a scene better.

Kodak TMax

Now here’s Kodak TMax. TMax I wouldn’t say is the highest contrast film all the time. But it can be in the right lighting situations. TMax is ultimately sharper than HP5.

Here’s another TMax 400 image. See how sharp that is? It’s nuts.

Kodak Tri-X 400

Kodak Tri-X 400 has been often compared to Ilford HP5 Plus. But I seriously think that they’re much different films. Where Tri-X I think is designed to have a grittier, grainier look, Ilford HP5 Plus is cleaner and more refined with less contrast. For street work, I seriously prefer Tri-X.

Delta 400

Lastly, let’s compare this film to Delta 400. Ilford Delta 400 I believe to be perhaps the most perfect film for street photography and casual captures. It is gritty, grainy, and contrasty while not going overboard with any of that.

The opinions, I may remind you, are my own. Do I think that some photographers can create beautiful work with Ilford HP5? Sure. But I’m unfortunately not one of them.

Why Documentary Photography Desperately Needs to Change and Evolve

Lead photo by Tuncay

Years ago, photojournalists were creating images that changed the world, our opinions on life, public policies, etc. The photo was powerful; and it arguably still is. But the inherent problem with the photo’s power these days has to do with a myriad of changes in society where the photo just hasn’t been able to keep up. Just think about it: years ago photography had a big part of ending the Vietnam War and exposing lots of other major issues with society. But these days, it’s not as effective. This isn’t only in the richer, more developed societies but instead all over the world. To understand why, we need to explore photography and culture’s relationship.

Continue reading…

Luka Tacon: On The Road With The Wolf (Premium)

All images by Luka Tacon. Used with permission.

Luka Tacon is a NYC-based DJ, producer and artist. In his recent multimedia exhibition On The Road With The Wolf, presented by Lomography and Wallplay, images and sound transported viewers to the open road which became the stage for some serious soul searching of a father and son.

“My parents sold the house they lived in for almost 20 years; the home into which my Dad poured his heart, soul, sweat and blood, and every spare moment of time and effort he had, in making that old carriage house into a beautiful sanctuary for our family. It was more than just a trip, but an opportunity for my father and I to engage in conversation about our lives as they transitioned into the unknown. I documented our journey on 35mm film and recorded the audio using a handheld recorder that I would leave running for hours at a time. Our conversations ran the spectrum from retirement to heartbreak to the unforeseeable future, baring our souls in an effort to find some catharsis. The vastness of the landscape coupled with the uncertainty of the road ahead proved to be a perfect venue for some soul-searching,” Tacon wrote in his artist statement.

Continue reading…

10 Black and White Instagram Photographers Under 10K Followers You Should Check Out Now


Those of us who embrace the purist mentality that monochromatic images lend themselves to often end up applying it to all of our work. Indeed, black and white simplifies a scene and makes the human mind pay attention to nothing else but the shapes in a scene. Sometimes it’s tough to embrace; but with a little bit of inspiration, you’ll want to get out there and document the world in nothing else but black, white and all the shades in between. 

To get you inspired, here are 10 photographers mostly shooting black and white with followings of under 10k to check out.

Also be sure to follow La Noir Image on Instagram. 

PS: Don’t forget about our Kickstarter!



The scenes that @AAA.ABBI creates will remind you of cinematic stills from old movies like Laurence of Arabia.

image is 23 years old and hails from Turkey. Some of the scenes this user captures will make you think again about how to use depth of field.



@Blackncolored used shadows, shapes and negative space in such a thought provoking way that it bound to give you some new ideas.



An extremely selective account, the @monochromeguy will show you New York in a different way.



Perhaps one of our new favorite accounts to follow, @coleebri creates blends of images and renders them in monochrome.



User @black_and_white_ldn will show you London in a whole new way.



@Steeldavid909 will show you portraits and people in an uber sharp rendition.



@Onrkorkmez will show you images that look delightfully lofi.



@Lucidal finds ways to play with contrast and shapes to create compelling back and white photographs.

Nathan Wirth 


@Nlwirth features loads of really amazing long exposure black and white photography. He tells the Phoblographer that he only goes to to photograph “When the weather is shitty.”