Why I Like Black & White

Many people ask me why I like black & white photos better than color. Maybe it is because I had my first exposure (pardon the pun) to black and white photography in my cousin’s darkroom at a young age. There is magic in watching an image coming to life in the chemicals in the darkroom.

But secondly, there is much greater detail visible to the naked eye in black & white than color. You can’t see the contrasts and detail in color as you do in black & white. It is more than “just pretty.”

In black and white images, the absence of light can be as important as the highlights. Solid, deep blacks can give a depth and solidity of an image. Sunlight, properly used, can paint a total photograph with total brilliance.

Black and white has a distinct atmosphere of its own. It’s classic, yet simple and elegant, even romantic. It has a refined quality. Without the distractions of color, the photograph asks each viewer to recognize the individuality and uniqueness of the subject. Black and white focuses the attention on form, shading and pattern, not color. It forces the viewer to see the world in a way that cannot be seen with the human eye.

To me, a black & white photograph is the purist art form of photography. It makes a viewer, stop and look at the detail and the structure of the photograph.

The photograph with this blog is from the San Jose Mission in San Antonio, TX. It is the front doorway and window of an Indian  dwelling which consists of a single room. The exquisite detail of the wood in the doorway and the stones of the outside structure is lost in a color photograph, but comes alive in black & white. For comparison I have also included a color photograph too.

This photograph was taken in January, 2011.

San Jose Mission  2 copy

Doorway color copy 1

Keep it Level

One of the hardest problems I have in taking good photographs, especially landscapes, is to keeping the camera level.

When you are taking landscapes it should be easy to be sure that the skyline in level, but for some reason it does not always happen.  If you do not have a skyline, try to find something  in the view finder and use that as a guide. Most digital cameras have small squares or guide lines that should help you. If your view finder is not something that you look through, but something that you hold away from you to see the picture you are about to take, then it is even more difficult to get the photo level.

In my case, many of my photos tend to lean towards the right just a tad. So I try to compensate and tip my camera the opposite way… just a tad. 

If you make your photos in a darkroom, you can straighten them out when you print them. But sometimes I do not notice the tipping until the print is made. The same goes when you are making the print on your computer. Photo editing software can help you solve the problem.. Now, when I am looking at the photo of Falls Mill that is the photo of the week, it now seems to be tipping towards the right.  

When you are taking closeup photographs of your children, family or friends it may be harder keeping the camera level.  As a matter of fact, when taking close up portraits of people, it may be more pleasing to have the camera tipped a bit.

Here is another view of Falls Mill. I think it is more level than the other one. Which view do you like best?

Just a subject to think about and to help you take better photographs.  Have a good week.

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