I love photography as there are no set rules and no real right or wrong way of taking pictures… There is most definitely a technical side to photography and understanding settings is very important but photography as a whole is flexible and the possibilities are endless. One of these possibilities is converting your photographs to black and white. I really enjoying exploring black and white photography as it can often enhance a photograph and can drastically change the mood of an image.
How does one go about creating a black and white image though? What do we look for in a black and white picture? Should we be thinking black and white before we have even pressed our shutter?
Not every picture we take will look good in black and white so understanding how colour works and how light can be used in different ways is a huge advantage before converting any image. When converting an image it is important to have different tones. The difference in tones creates contrast, which results in the subject of your picture to pop or stand out. If there is only one tone in an image the conversion will look flat and lose intensity. In wildlife photography conditions are not always easy. The light can be flat, the colours may lack in vibrancy and the scene may be difficult to capture.
I always take a brief moment when out in the field to see what I am capturing. If conditions and the external elements are ideal and I have great colour in my images then black and white doesn’t even cross my mind. A colour image is only valid when we have the correct tone and beautiful light. My thought process starts to change when I see drastic highlights and shadows, which produce contrast or if there is a variety of different tones in the image. I find my mind starting to wander and instead of erasing the image or giving up, I try think of other options that I can use to portray my subject and more often than not it is as simple as a black and white conversion.
Instead of deleting an image or saving it in a file which you may never look at again, try converting it. Something that many people do not know is that once you convert the image to black and white, you can still use the colour toggles in various post processing software to actually draw out or underplay certain tones. Play around with these different colours individually or manipulate the contrast, shadows or highlights. By playing around, combining these elements and thinking outside the box you will start to define your own unique style. The worst that can happen is that we learn from our mistakes and we give ourselves a deeper knowledge and understanding of what we need to do the next time we have a similar opportunity.