There has been resurgence of interest in black & white photography over the past few years. Most wedding photographers now provide ‘reportage’ photography as an option, and some portrait photographers produce black & white shots as part of the package. It is a trend that I hope will continue, but are photographers really taking full advantage?
The reality is that most black and white photographs we see today are not true black & white at all. They are simply desaturated colour shots taken on a digital camera. The true art of black and white photography has largely been lost along with the film camera. Why? Because digital cameras shoot in colour and you have to convert them to black & white with an image editor. This is fine, but if all you do is hit the ‘desaturate’ option, then you are missing out on the true art of black & white.
When photographs were taken using black & white film we used colour filters over the lens to control the contrast and density of greys for selected colours in the scene. Red filters, for example, made a blue sky appear a darker grey than normal, and green filters were often used for portraits to reduce the appearance of skin blemishes by filtering out red in the colour spectrum.
These fine adjustments continued in the darkroom with the use of different contrast grades of paper, or multi-grade filters over the enlarger lens. Many top photographers used specialist darkroom technicians to produce their fine-art prints. Such was the skill needed to produce high quality black & white. Read the rest of this entry »