When people talk about monochrome, better know as Black and White, photography, you get a lot of clichés. Legendary Canadian photographer Ted Grant famously said "When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and White, you photograph their souls!” There is something in his quote, but equally, a good photo should have a reason for being in monochrome as much as it should have a good reason for including colour. Everything in a photograph needs to have purpose for being there. I will talk more about Black and White in a later blog post.
I bring it up now because last week we talked about "Understanding Exposure" in my BACK TO BASICS series. Behind the intense debates as to what monochrome does to a subject, what it can do is help you practice getting the correct exposure in your photos. Being able to locate black point and blown-out whites more easily within a monochrome photograph helps you place the your highlights and shadows correctly.
Whether you're shooting with a filter on your iPhone, using monochromatic film (if you're old school), or editing using software in post-production, practice a few shots in black and white and consider whether the tones and light are where they should be.
This photo was taken by me on a farm in the village of Gbeworbu, Sierra Leone. It was shot in colour and edited to black and white in post. The tones on her face are gentle, with no blacks or blown-out whites. The background is suitably darker to keep the focus on the subjects lighter face.