Shooting Challenge: Black & White

Illustration for article titled Shooting Challenge: Black & White

In the age of color, black and white photos can be a cliche crutch to scream "I AM AN ARTIST!" But it's also a powerful way to capture contrast and texture. For this week's Shooting Challenge...


The Challenge

...take a black and white photo. (It can—and maybe should—be converted to black and white in post production. More on that below).

The Technique

The best tip you'll get anywhere about shooting black and white, digitally, is to do it in RAW if you can. Subtle tonal information is so important in this medium that you want to work with the most info-rich source material that you can. Now, if you can't shoot RAW, shoot in color, NOT your camera's black and white modes. I didn't realize this until researching, but there seems to be some evidence that black and white modes within a camera will just throw out valuable image data that you could milk in post production. Oh, and keep your ISO as low as possible to preserve the finest details.

In short that's: shoot in raw (or at least color), use a minimal ISO, convert in post production.

So that's technically what's ahead of you. Beyond that, it's a time to look for lines, textures, shadows and lights in your scene. Consider your photo to be a sketch or an etching, not a painting.


The Example

Our lead shot (click on it to see the whole frame) is by flickr's holia. It's of Santafé de Bogotá, and what a fantastic example of what you can do in black and white. By removing color information, we're left only with the rough texture of the buildings fading into the sky—and for that reason, it's likely a much better photo in black and white than color (which may have just looked muddy).


The Rules

1. Submissions need to be your own.
2. Photos must be taken since this contest was announced (read more on that above).
3. Explain, briefly, the equipment, settings, technique and story behind shot.
4. Email submissions to, not me.
5. Include 970px wide image (200KB or less) AND a 2560x1600 sized in email. I know that your photo may not fall into those exact high rez dimensions, so whatever native resolution you're using is fine.
6. One submission per person.
7. Use the proper SUBJECT line in your email (more info on that below)
8. You agree to the Standard Contest Rules - though we DO accept non-US resident submissions.
9. If the image contains any material or elements that are not owned by you and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the image, you are responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the image in the manner set forth in these rules without additional compensation. If any person appearing in any image is under the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence the signature of a parent or legal guardian is required on each release.


Send your best photo by Monday, April 23rd at 10AM Eastern to with "BlackWhite" in the subject line. Save your files as JPGs, and use a FirstnameLastnameBlackWhite.jpg (970px wide) and FirstnameLastnameBlackWhiteWallpaper.jpg (2560px wide) naming conventions. Include your shooting summary (camera, lens, ISO, etc) in the body of the email along with a story of the shot in a few sentences. And don't skip this story part because it's often the most enjoyable part for us all beyond the shot itself!

Mark Wilson is the founder of Philanthroper, a daily deal site for nonprofits.



Love B&W. Here is one from my portfolio. Too old to submit.