Saturday, April 5, 2014

Either Or (by guest blogger Paula Neumann)


This macro shot of a magnolia flower works well in both color and black-&-white.  The color image conveys softness and a sense of calm.  The black-&-white image appears more dramatic and intense.  Very different feelings.  Which do you prefer?  

In the absence of color, the eye is drawn to the basics - texture, pattern, shape, lighting and tone. Texture and pattern are important in black-&-white images.  Low contrast lighting (such as that seen early in the morning, late in the afternoon or on overcast days) can enhance texture and roundness (the 3-dimensional look of a subject).  Side lighting creates shadows and will also highlight texture.  Harsh midday light, on the other hand (when frontally lighting a subject), can obscure detail and form.  Head-on harsh light can make an image appear "flat." 

In this image of the magnolia, the petals are smooth while the flower's center is highly textured and complex.  The composition is simple yet there is depth and dimension. 

A successful black-&-white image also requires tonal contrast.  In this image there is a full spectrum of tones ranging from the whitest white to the blackest black with several shades of gray in-between.  

Other tips to keep in mind for black-&-white photography include using a low ISO and shooting in RAW.  A low ISO will minimize noise (the equivalent of grain in a film photo) in the image.  As mentioned in previous blogs, it is best to shoot in RAW so that the camera records all the information (including color).  This will give you more control over the post-production conversion from color to black-&-white.  

So…next time you are out with your camera, take some images with the intent of converting them to black-&-white.  Think about the basics.  Look for texture, pattern, light, and tonal contrast.  Subject matter can be anything - landscapes, still life, portraits, architecture, street scenes.  They all work in black-&-white.

Experiment, too, with post-production conversion on images that you shot in the past.  A ho hum color image just may end up being spectacular in black-&-white.  

[Editor’s note: Paula is a prolific and superb photographer. You can see more of her work at ]

Paula Neumann bio:
Paula considers herself a "visual" person and has always enjoyed taking photos.  Up until a few years ago though, she used a point and shoot camera or the automatic setting on an SLR camera.  When her daughter headed off to college, she tried to fill the void by taking some photography classes through The Art League in Alexandria, VA.  It worked, she got hooked on photography, and yes, she can even operate the manual settings on a camera.  She feels that she still has a ways to go technically, but she's on her way.  She has been on Awake the Light tours to Alaska, the Smoky Mountains and to the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.  Paula enjoys floral/macro photography, nature, and travel photography.  She has started dabbling in night and portrait photography.  She shares her passion for the camera with her husband and daughter.  Paula recently retired from a 26-year career as a hospital-based pathologist who used to spend hours peering through a microscope every day.  Now she can spend those hours looking through the camera lens.  

Shutter Speed 1/320 sec.  Aperture f/3.5.  ISO 200.  Lens: Canon 100mm macro f/2.8.  Camera: Canon 7D.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “Color is everything, black and white is more."  Dominic Rouse

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