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digital-photography

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									Black & White Photographs
Originally, just as with movies, all film for still photography was black-and-white or sepia. It
wasn’t until the mid-20th century that color photography became feasible for the masses.
Obviously color photography is now open to anyone, and given that we see the world in color,
why would we want to deliberately remove color from our photographs?

This is not an idle question, because in answering it we identify when to try taking a photograph
in black-and-white – or more likely, to try taking the color out of a photograph after the fact
using an image-editing program such as Photoshop.

The answer to the above question is that we would want to remove color from a photograph in
order to simplify it; to get rid of distracting information so that we can concentrate better on
something else. In this it’s no different from blurring the background of a portrait or from
framing a photo in such a way that distracting elements are out of the frame.

So now we know the why, which has led us to the when, of black-and-white photography, let’s
look at the three main situations where we might desaturate (i.e. remove color from) a photo:

In portraiture

In color, a close-up picture of a person reveals all kinds of distracting details of their face –
blemishes, a red nose, uneven skin tones, and so on. Black-and-white photography strips out
these details, and this makes it easier for the viewer to concentrate on what the photo reveals
about the person’s life or personality, which is what portraiture is all about.

In abstract fine art photography

Color is very noticeable in a photo, and it generally trumps things like patterns or shapes. So
another use for black-and-white is when a photographer wants to take a photo that is ‘about’ a
pattern or shapes. This type of photograph comes up most often in what we might call ‘abstract
fine art photography’, where there really isn’t a clear or recognizable subject for the photo.

Note that black-and-white photographs are generally more ‘tolerant’ of contrast, so fine art
photographers will often strip out color from their photographs and then ramp up the contrast
(again, using an image editing program).

Whenever the photo is more or less monochromatic anyway

This final category is something of a catchall. While the main use of black-and-white is to
remove something distracting from a photo, it’s also a good idea to try converting a photo to
black-and-white when the photo really has few bright colors anyway. Another way of looking
this is to say that just as color is distracting, a washed-out lack of color is also somewhat
distracting.
Tobias Sterling is a featured writer on Clivir.com – The Free Learning Community Site. He
provides more information on Beginners Photography Basics, Taking Photographs of Moving
subjects and Portrait and People Photography on Clivir.




Question by Pyeblow: What is the process called when color is added to black & white
photographs?
Just curious. I saw one of Stalin and it interested me.

Best answer:

Answer by Jorge Lavin
you can call it Saturated Black & White


								
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