A Study in Black and White…and Shades of Gray

I was reading a post on another blog yesterday with tips about black and white photography.  The person who wrote the post talked about “seeing in black in white.”

When I look at black and white photos I don’t see them as black and white at all…they seem all about shades of color ranging from dark black to gray to white, and all the variations in between.  The subtle shading creates a sense of depth and lets light and shadow play.

I frequently edit my photos and apply a black and white filter.  I love the sense of timelessness that black and white gives to certain photos.  It seems that there is a story-telling quality, maybe the lack of color invites each person to interpret the photo based on their own experiences.

These yellow pencils from my classroom look great in black and white.  It’s easy to colorize them in your mind when you look at the photo.


And I love the ways my students hands look in this one.  Even without color you can see the sun shining…and focus on those little hands holding even smaller seeds.


Who would guess I took this picture of a fisherman on an urban beach in 2013?


I think I liked this crow better in color.  The green leaves made the crow more prominent…it’s hard to make him out in this one.


This one of the horse might be considered cheating.  I didn’t go all the way to black and white.  I just faded the colors a bit.


And this is one of my favorites…my cat Phil.  I do lots of photos of him in black and white…he is a black and white cat, after all!  This photo is interesting because the color version looks quite similar.  A black and white cat in a white box with black print is already mostly black and white!


The term black and white often makes me think of either/or.  But black and white photos are more like real life…built in shades of gray with plenty of room for interpretation and meaning making.

Which of these photos speaks to you?  How does the black and white impact your visual experience?

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