The final section of the ‘colour’ subject area deals with black-and-white.  It says composing images without colour involves training your eyes not to be influenced by the colours in a scheme; paying more attention to the structure in a composition – the form of things by line, shape and volume.  This echoes what I listed to from Nevada Weir – how the discipline of learning photography in black-and-white taught her to recognise the ‘skeleton’ of an image through contrast.

Black-and-white is continues to be popular today for a number of reasons including:

  • it is a further step away form reality.
  • digital photography has helped its revival as it is easy to convert to black-and-white at any time during post-processing, having taken a shot in colour.
  • digital photography allows manipulation of the exact shade of great each colour will become – giving people the ability to experiment and control the final appearance of the image.

Exercise – Colours into tone in black and white

This exercise looks at how applying colour filters affects the colours in a black-and-white image.  e.g. a red filter held in front of a scene with blue and red would cause the blue to appear very dark and the red brighter.

The instructions called for a still-life that included the colours red, yellow, green and blue – along with a piece of grey card.  As I’m shooting in digital the instructions advised the processing software can be used on a single image to apply the colour filters – rather than using physical filters, which would be required with film.

I set up the scene as below – and this is how it appeared in colour:

Original Colour Image

I did a straight conversion to black-and-white in Lightroom, which looks like this:

Original Black-and-white

So, now you know what the original looked like in colour and black-and-white, here is the same image with the filters applied.

Yellow Filter

Yellow Filter

So, in this image the yellow really stands out – appearing almost white.  The great card is also slightly brighter too.  I don’t know whether that’s because of my white balance being slightly wrong (so it’s been given a slight yellow hue) or whether it’s not a true grey.  Apart from that, it hasn’t altered the tones of other colours in the image.

Red Filter

Red Filter

Here the red object is brighter, but there’s been little change in the tones of the other colours.

Blue Filter

Blue Filter

This is probably the most profound change – due to the darkness of the original blue background.  It’s really brightened up in this image.

Green Filter

Green Filter

Again, the filtered colour has brightened up significantly here, though there’s been little effect on others.

In each of the images applying a different coloured filter has helped ‘highlight’ a different element within the image – be it reducing contrast with the blue background, or brightening one of the subjects relative to the others.

This will be useful where using black-and-white and wanting to bring out a particular element within the composition that doesn’t stand out through it’s “natural” tone or colour when in black-and-white.