How to select and make Black & White pictures for publication and appreciation

We all take lots of pictures every day but some of the pictures we take are better than others. This post is intended to help you decide which ones should be: deleted, kept for future reference and those that are the pick of the crop to be published for the world to appreciate.

When looking at or choosing pictures we often use the word “like” “I like that picture” when we actually mean it resonates with us, there is a relationship expressed between the picture and our past learning, experience, memory bank, world view, subjects we choose, style and vision etc.

In photography there is a very good point made – less is more, in terms of numbers of pictures shown, and the removal of extraneous detail in a picture that confuses the viewer. It is better to show one really strong picture than six weak ones.

I use Lightroom to sort my pictures, however there are many other bits of software available to help you rate and select your picks, the flag system works well.

Files that should be deleted are unintentionally out of focus, vastly over / under exposed, not visually interesting, anything that has technical faults. We are all very close to our own work; ask yourself will somebody else find this interesting?

So you have a colour file that contains an interesting picture that may work in B&W. The choice of file will have nothing to do with the colour content. B&W pictures work well when the lighting is from the back or side that produces texture in a graphic design. Frontal lighting kills contrast that’s why Kodak recommends standing with sun behind you.

When you are working on a file in monochrome think about the following points:

  • What attracted you to original scene and is that attraction made obvious to the viewer?
  •  What is the subject?
  •  Is there anything distracting in the background that needs toning down or cropping out?
  •  Where is the brightest light? (The eye will always go to lightest part of the picture with contrast)
  • Is the brightest light on the subject?
  • How are you going to contain the viewer’s eye in the picture? Most B&W pictures benefit from darkening of the edges
  •  How are you going to design the picture to move the viewers though the picture? Consider: Composition / Balance / Tonality / Subject / Subject matter / Overall and local contrast and brightness
  • What is the pictures utmost potential? Can you imagine it?

Be critical of your own work; seek advice from one person whose judgement you trust and respect.

©Andy Beel FRPS      

9 responses to How to select and make Black & White pictures for publication and appreciation

  1. TJB says:

    Good advice, Andy. I have found that being able to realistically screen your images is extremely important. I have cut many images that I “liked” but did not make the grade. It is a constant challenge! -Tom


  2. Amber Avery says:

    Oh, i like this 😉 Haha. I found this very helpful, thank you, now i have some ideas/techniques to get out there and work with!


  3. Distan Bach says:

    Nice article Andy. I liked the pointers about light direction. I’m trying to train my ‘monochrome’ eye but sometimes I dont see B&W potential until I’m reviewing or revisiting older shots. Practice, practice, practice.
    Oh, and thanks for stopping by my blog too. Much appreciated.


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