Featured Photo: How Black and White Photos Are More Captivating

The Poignancy of Black and White Portraits

Portrait of a Tibetan Man

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.

Earlier blog about focusing on the eyes.

Equipment:  Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens

You can see more of these photos here  on my Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like).

And you can go to the Ken Lee Photography website, which has more photos from Ken Lee.  And you may purchase prints, framed or unframed, at my photo store.  Thank you very much for visiting!

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Nikon D90 12.3MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)

Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VR II Nikkor Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon DX-Format Digital SLR Cameras

Nikon MC-DC2 Remote Release Cord for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras


Featured Photo – Himalayan Festival During Monsoon Rains

White Mask Dancer, Ladakh, India

White Mask Dancer, Ladakh, India, taken in the pouring rain

For my Featured Photo this week, I’m choosing the White Mask Dancer.  This was taken in some heavy Himalayan rain during the Hemis Festival in Ladakh, a Tibetan Buddhist region in India.

I want to emphasize here that sometimes you can still get really interesting shots in less than ideal conditions.  Sometimes, you have to work for them.  Sometimes really hard.  During many of the shots that I took, I was being pushed and jostled.  I sat in mud, in rain, next to crying kids.  During some of the shots, I even briefly had an adult sitting on my shoulder while I was seated cross-legged in the mud!

The monsoon rains came down hard.  I tucked my camera inside my waterproof jacket, pulling it out when shooting, since I had difficulty managing my umbrella, the jostling, and the photography simultaneously.

Prayer Beads, Ladakh, India

Prayer Beads, Ladakh, India, taken under less-than-ideal conditions….if you consider pushing, shoving, sitting in mud in monsoon rains, and someone sitting on your shoulder to be “less than ideal”.

The devout in the audience fingered their mala beads while watching the performance, devoted to the birth of Guru Padmasambhava, who brought Buddhism to these far Himalayan reaches of the world,  Many of these people had traveled from the farthest corners of Ladakh to attend the festival.


Unfortunately, after the festival at Hemis, returning to Leh wasn’t that simple. It continued raining. I stopped and talked to a few of the monks, and went inside the main temple to hang out. When I came out, there were still streams of people walking downhill. The problem is that there were no buses to meet any of these streams of people. The only buses we saw were already full and pulling away.

After about an hour of waiting for buses, about half of us, numbering in the hundreds, started walking downhill towards Karu, along the main highway. We were all soaking wet and shivering while walking downhill. I don’t know how long that took, but it was several kilometers away, and it seemed to take a really long time.

Nikon D50, Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens, a muddy REI waterproof jacket, and a small umbrella purchased in Ladakh.