Photography to Get at Home 3: Ye Olde Black & White

Black and white photography is something like the quaint, old, but also mysterious and possibly powerful grandpa in the happy-go-lucky family of modern photography.

From tilt-shift fun to HDR’s neon colors – not to mention the various filters to slap over Instagram shots – a lot of photography seems to have become all about quick snaps with easy effects and eye-popping colors.

Along comes the reduction to photography that looks like it did at the beginning of the technology, devoid of color, but all the more expressive for the reduction.

Again, assuming you are not already so in love with the technique that you will shell out the necessary fortune for a black-and-white-only Leica Monochrom, you can find settings for black-and-white photography among the “Picture Effect” modes of e.g. a Sony RX100 (accessible via the “Fn” button while in P/A/S/M modes and shooting JPEG).

It is “settings” in the plural because there are two different options, on that camera at least:
– High Contrast Mono. or
– Rich-tone Mono.

Either way, the reduction to black-and-white lends a certain gravitas and artistic flair all by itself, and that alone is an interesting issue to think about: Are we all so influenced by the few classic photos from special events and great photographers that are widely known that we equate b&w with quality? Is it something in the medium (or rather, given we’re talking digital photography, the technique) that appeals to us in a different way?

Whatever it may be, that black-and-white photography feels more artistic has the nice side-effect of making you as a photographer feel more artistic when you go out to find interesting scenes and compose good photographs. That is a good thing for getting away from the usual randomized shooting happening so much, now that cameras are everywhere, and all the better for re-discovering a familiar place in a different light, such as Vienna’s inner city, in my case…


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