Personality and emotion in a picture frame

I always knew the expressive monochrome print is not a direct translation of the tones found in front of the camera.

No one told this fundamental fact.

As soon as I started doing black and white in my darkroom in 1985 for me it was a chance to give the world in front of the camera lens my interpretation. This started a journey of self discovery.

This shot was taken in New Brunswick in 2009 in the evening it was bright enough to hand hold the camera. I treat my digital raw files as unprocessed negatives, which they are. Once you have the mindset to make a black and white picture the chains that bind you to colour descriptive reality are broken just in the act of creating a range of tones of grey from black to white.

So my advice to you is should you want to give your pictures your own visual style, break the chain in the tonality that is recorded by the camera and the print. Why does your print have to look like the scene the camera recorded?

You gain a personal style of photography by the choices you consciously or unconsciously make.  Referring back to a Mind Map I did on the 14th of February 2008 in my Journal, Style and Vision puts personality and emotion in to a picture frame. The Mind Map fills the page so I have been very brief with comments. The part that the unconscious mind plays in the making of a photograph is a very interesting subject and one that I would like to learn more about if anyones got any suggestions I would like to hear.

A word of caution – in the good? old days of film this type of look was easy to get just by underexposing the negative by two stops and increasing the film development by 50% to darken the shadows and lighten the highlights. If you try underexposing a digital file by two stops with a high ISO all you will get is digital noise that you may not be able to successfully remove. So my aim with exposure in the camera is to record the scene without burning out the highlights. For me this means under exposure by say half or one stop. If there is not detail in the highlights even with a raw file it cannot be recovered. You can not resurrect what is not there!

What you see in this picture is not noise (and you should know the difference) but 400 ASA Tri X film grain put in with Silver Efex Pro 2.

A big hello to all the new followers of my little blog.

(c) Andy Beel FRPS

14 responses to Personality and emotion in a picture frame

  1. athyfoto says:

    Well said that man! Great post.

    and . . Mind Maps, haven’t used them for long time, not since uni days. I think I may start using them again to sort out where I want to be going with my photography since my aging brain finds it hard to sort all my thoughts into some kind of plan.


    • andybeel says:

      Hi Frank thanks for the appreciation. I don’t use mind maps very often but they can be useful for getting a lot of info on a single sheet of paper.

      Perhaps a way to think about changes in your photography may be to decide where you want to be and why, and then break the changes in to achievable managable chunks.
      Hope this helps.


  2. MariAnne says:

    Love this shot Andy, the light and tonality are superb. And the strong diagonal composition is outstanding. Well seen, shot and processed.


    • andybeel says:

      Hi Paula I have been sat here for a few minutes thinking what to say to you. The conclusion I came was that it would great if you had a wordpress blog so the blogosphere could see and apppreciate the depth and quality of your work. How about it? it’s free, and easy to set up and manage.

      Just go to now

      Best regards


      • Paula says:

        Thank you , Andy…something for the near future and love to talk about the commitment when I see you next.


  3. A.Barlow says:

    And this is why I love mono photography so much. It’s the expression. Also, I think it also adds a bit more freedom for personal interpretation to the viewer.


  4. LensScaper says:

    A very perceptive piece of writing. I have always thought, and said more than once in my own blog, that I think seeing in Black and White requires a different Mind Set. Images that suit the Colour medium do not often work well in B&W.


    • andybeel says:

      Hi Andy you are right the seeing skills required are as different as chalk and cheese. Us proper photographers look for lighting, contrast, texture etc NOT colour.


  5. TarekOfCairo says:

    I think that all the surprises I get in my photos are the work of the subconscious mind.. The things I did not see (and the camera registered) are actually what appeals to the subconscious, flow in my historical experiences and futuristic expectations and dreams… This is so true in Black and white were distraction is kept to a minimum .. I love how my subconscious mind plays with my eyes…


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