Saturday, January 31, 2015

Another February, Another Black and White Book Club!

Last year, a group of photographers on 365Project and Flickr came together and participated in a Black and White Book Club for the month of February. This year we are back with a new book and new weekly themes! Consider joining 365Project and sharing a daily picture or jump in with the Boost Your Photography 52 Weeks Challenge for a once-a-week go at black and white.

Interested in learning more about last year's Black and White Book Club? Last year we discussed Michael Freeman's The Complete Guide to Black and White Digital Photography (or the Black and White Photography Field Guide). Check out each week's posts: the overview and week 1week 2week 3week 4, and week 5.

Black and White Book Club 2015: Overview

This year, we are sharing and discussing Andrew Gibson's The Magic of Black and White, Vol 1. This packed PDF contains 60 pages of amazing black and white photography and advice for only $5. We will be breaking it down by week into the following pages and areas of emphasis:

  • Feb. 1-7, pages 1-21: Develop your ability to see in black and white, with a focus on simple shapes and forms. 
  • Feb. 8-14, pages 22-31: Develop your ability to see the details in your pictures. Choose one of the following to feature in your pictures: texture, lines, foreground, negative space, or contrast 
  • Feb. 15-21, pages 32-44: Develop your perception of light. Choose a single subject and put it in different lighting situations: soft light, hard light, dramatic light, back light, sunrise/sunset, natural light or interior light. 
  • Feb. 22-28, pages 45-58: Macro (with a twist if you are following the book). Develop your ability to see the minute details of your subject. 

Black and White Book Club Week 1: seeing in black and white

Black and white photography is a different beast than color photography, and it requires a different skill set and a different way of approaching your final image. As a rule, people do not literally "see" in black and white, so the camera (or our post-processing) will interpret a scene differently in monochrome than we experienced it firsthand. As Gibson says on page 3, "By taking away colour, the image becomes an artistic interpretation."

Do you practice pre-visualization when photographing in black and white? Do you stop and think about what your composition will look like when you no longer see the color? Spend that extra few seconds this week trying to pre-visualize your image, then shoot and use your LCD to preview your black and white creation. (I still recommend shooting in RAW + JPEG so that you retain the color in the RAW file if you want it back later.)

Gibson emphasizes several different strategies for thinking about black and white, including paying attention to tonal contrast, studying the highlights, aiming for simplicity, and struggling with complexity. He then wraps up this week's section with a brief discussion of shape and form. (Read more about these two elements of visual design: shape and form.)

My suggestion to you this week would be to try and tackle some of these recommendations individually. Spend a day thinking about and trying to photograph examples of tonal contrast. Then a day seeking out simplicity and eliminating distraction elements. Throughout, keep coming back to that idea of pre-visualization. Work on trying to align your expectations to the real output of your black and white photographs.

We look forward to having you join us this month via either 365Project (daily) or Boost Your Photography 52 Weeks Challenge (weekly). Please also consider sharing your thoughts about this week's topic in the comments below.

Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is now available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.
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