The Poignancy of Black and White Portraits
Portrait of a Tibetan man, originally shot in color but changed to black and white (technically, duotone since it’s tinted slightly, but you’ll give me a pass on our discussion of black and white now, won’t you?). Although a strong portrait when viewed in color, the photo takes on an added poignancy by eliminating distractions and focusing on the man’s kind visage and the lifetime of events seemingly etched on his face. Naturally, as discussed in a previous blog, I focused on the eyes.
There’s simply some times when an image feels stronger in black and white. Not everyone feels this way. Some feel it’s limiting.
But there are times in which a black and white photo can be more captivating, poignant, and emotional than its color counterpart. Black and white photos can refocus the attention on the subject by eliminating colors that may serve to distract more than enhance. By eliminating colors, black and white photography can place added emphasis on shape, form, texture, contrast or pattern.
With digital photography, one may not even have to “think” in black and white when photographing, although I do feel this is a fantastic exercise in strengthening one’s awareness and appreciation of shape, form, texture, contrast or patterns. Or even lighting. Try experimenting with the monochrome settings in your camera so you can receive instant feedback in your LCD screen. If you shoot in RAW, you can even switch your image back to color.
Or if working in an image editor such as Photoshop, try viewing the image in black and white. As with all photography, lighting and composition and attention to form all still matter, and in some instances, perhaps more so.
Equipment: Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens
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