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About "Black and White"

Before the age of digital photography, although I would occasionally shoot rolls of black and white film, I usually didn’t like the results. This was largely due to my lack of understanding of how and when to use it.


Ansel Adams, a master of black and white photography, once said: “I can get a far greater sense of ‘color’ through a well-planned and executed black and white image than I have ever achieved with color photography.”


Although I still don't understand that, there are fine art photographers who prefer black and white images for their tendency to distance the subject matter from reality. Because we see the world in color, removing color from a portrait can emphasize features that would go unnoticed in a picture of someone with bright blue eyes or flaming red hair.


Black and white is a good choice when color distracts from a detail you want others to see, or the message you want the image to convey. The general rule is to convert images to black and white when the light, form, or texture in the scene is more compelling than the hues of the subject matter.


Although black and white photography came about in the early 1800s, it wasn’t until 1861 when the first color photograph was achieved.


Have you ever wondered why people in old black and white pictures almost never smiled? Were our ancestors in a constant state of misery? Did they ever have fun?


There are a number of explanations for this which include the need to keep still because of long exposure times, poor dental work, and the cultural notion of a portrait being a solemn occasion. For many people, wide, toothy grins were considered inappropriate and often associated with madness, drunkenness, or otherwise immature behavior. If you want to read a good story about this, “Google” Willy Smiling 1853.


I can’t provide a technical reason why I have converted some images to black and white. I just like them. And some of them are actually color images. Can you tell which ones?

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