How To Create Intriguing Minimalist Black And White Photography

By Linda Harris

The elements of contrast, texture, shadow, shape, and tone can create compelling and dramatic photos even without the use of color. If you have discovered the monochrome art of Ansel Adams and Alfred Stieglitz, you are probably wondering what they did to capture such deceptively simple and amazing images. Minimalist black and white photography is a form of art many have attempted. Mastering the techniques required to make the art great is attained by only a few.

If this is something you are serious about trying, the first thing you have to do is learn how to ignore color. There are two easy ways to help yourself do this. You can go out and purchase a monochrome viewing filter for your camera, or you can go to the dollar store and pick up a pair of cheap sunglasses with dark grey lenses. Almost any subject lends itself to this technique. You can photograph landscapes, cityscapes, people, or still lifes.

Most people who teach photography, and other art courses, put a big emphasis on composition. Composition is certainly an important element, but that is true of both color and monochrome. The difference is that some compositions that work beautifully in color won't work at all in black and white. You have to learn how to judge the elements of composition to make your monochrome photos distinctive.

One of the foundation stones of good monochrome picture taking is tone. It is not exactly the same as contrast, but similar. When you shoot a cityscape that has lots of vibrant color for example, the vibrancy of those colors may not translate when the same scene is shot in monochrome. They may just become a mass of different grays. You can alter the tone with the use of filters. You can also change the lighting. If you change the light, you'll create instant shadows and highlights.

You must be aware of shadows. Shadows are powerful tools in your arsenal when you are creating minimalist art. The stronger your shadows the higher the possibility you have of taking a good picture. It is just a fact that people are drawn to shadows. Not all shadows are black and empty of shape. You should consider how shadow, and what's contained in the shadows, will affect the observer.

There are shapes in shadows, but it's contrast that creates them. Shadows can be the element that defines your photos. Shapes are the objects the human brain uses to define and recognize its surroundings. One of the ways we identify objects is by the way they are shaped. Working in monochrome makes it even more important to look for shapes, and how they work with contrast and tone.

Light and shadow can create texture. When eliminating texture in order to create a flat surface effect, your photo will become more abstract than if you had chosen to include it. Texture can be emphasized with the lowering of your light source's level. The light will create highlights and shadows. This in turn reveals texture.

The decision to strip your work of color can be scary. Color can hide a lot of technical mistakes. Monochrome doesn't give the artist that cover.

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