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Ed Ruth teaches individualized photography classes in Bakersfield California. Contact me using: or text me at: 661-303-9210

Black & white

is never out of style

The Black & White School: If you are interested in black & white photography, I can tailor your lesson to focus on this aspect of photography.

First, Do not use the “Monochrome” setting in your camera for black and white images. This is very limiting.

Second, You do not need one of the special cameras that have the red, green, and blue lens layer removed from the sensor to take very high quality black and white images.

Third, Black and white photographs are created in post-production. In either DxO PhotoLab Elite or Photoshop CC we can adjust red, green, blue, yellow, cyan, and magenta color channels independently. This practice is fundamental to our black and white composition.

Fourth, Think in terms of zones as did Ansel Adams. Or, simpler, think in terms of black point, shadows, threequarter-tones, midtones, onequarter-tones, highlights, and white point. In black and white photography, remember that people are far more forgiving of shadows than highlights. A large area of white offends the eye unless there is a very rewarding reason to have it. This is not nearly as true in graphic arts where white space is used as a tool to channel the eye toward the message, especially a written message. Shadows should reveal some detail or they are not shadows, they are black or almost black.

Fifth, Foreground, subject of interest, background. Our subject of interest may extend through all three but, typically, dominates the image wherever it may be. The viewer should not have to hunt within an image to discover the subject of interest. Generally, I tend to make the foreground and background contrast. If the foreground is brighter consider making the background darker and vice-versa. We can easily make a sky darker by moving blue and cyan color channels toward black.

Sixth, I use the Contrast function in PhotoLab, especially Microcontrast and Fine contrast to bring out texture in black and white images. A black and white image really projects power when there is texture present. Camera Raw has a Texture function as well. Obviously, like the sharpening filter, this can be overdone.

Seventh, As an art form, black and white photography isn’t going away. Our minds use a LOT less energy when viewing a black and white image than when viewing a color image. The brain needs a constant supply of oxygen and sugar. Color images drain much more sugar than black and white images. In an art gallery I saw a black and white framed image. The image was cropped to a 1:1 aspect ratio, two feet square, it was one of the most relaxing works of art I have veer seen. Let simplicity be your guide.

Eighth, It may seem a tad silly if overdone, but a black and white image with a splash of color here or there, may really catch the eye. Also, play with saturation to emphasize one or another tone or area of your black and white image. What may look ridiculous in color will look very different in black and white. Use your imagination, black and white photography is very forgiving of experimentation!

A darker background and lighter foreground works well here.

Wind Wolves Preserve

Downtown Bakersfield California


Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, California

DxO PhotoLab Elite Black and White

Photography can be fun, profitable, creative, and technically superior at the same time. Text me at 661-303-9210 for a custom one-to-one camera class in Bakersfield, California or email me using:

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