Assignment 3- Monochrome

For this assignment, choose a theme or subject that you will conceive, shoot and process in black and white, attempting to bring out the monochrome image qualities of form, tonal contrast and texture, perhaps also experimenting with key.

You will find the research I carried out on black and white photography in preparation for this assignment here.

From this research, I learnt that portrait photography converts well into black and white. Therefore I decided to do a photoshoot of my six-year-old niece; Lynne. I then had to decide upon a location. I chose to use their family farm, and a country lane- both containing a great deal of textured backgrounds which will convert well to monochrome. Unfortunately I could not shoot in RAW as my memory card can’t hold many images in raw, and on a shoot it would be a disaster to run out of memory card space before I was finished. I do need another couple of memory cards- but photography is an expensive hobby, which I am slowly learning, so for now it will have to come next on the list after a flash unit! Below are my final seven images along with explanations of why I chose each particular setting, and the editing I carried out on each image to bring out the best tonal qualities.

Image 1- For this image I placed Lynne in between a forest of trees. The interesting and strong shapes of the trees work well in monochrome. The tones of the bright white sky against the dark trees gives a strong contrast in tones which works well in black and white. There is slight highlight clipping in the sky- however, I feel that this further adds to the strong contrast between the dark and light tones, and I also didn’t want to compromise the even exposure of my subject’s face for an evenly exposed background. Whilst editing I optimised the image with all the basic tools which I learnt in this part of the course- setting the black and white points and using curves to adjust brightness and contrast. I then converted the image to black and white by using the default black and white conversion in Photoshop. I experimented adjusting a few RGB sliders, but felt that the image did not benefit from any of these adjustments.

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Image 2- I placed Lynne on this large rock in front of a barbed wire fence to create texture. I varied Lynne’s eye contact with the camera in this shoot; getting her to look directly into the camera lens in this shot, as suggested by my tutor in assignment one, as this helps the viewer get a connection with the subject. The different elements in the background really did create strong texture in this shot. The bright white sky against the dark grass made for strong contrasting tones- which further made this an ideal image to convert to monochrome. Again I exposed for the subject’s face, as I wanted to prioritise that above the background. I really like the artsy effect that overexposed backgrounds have on some images (as seen in previous posts on Max Wanger’s photography), so I don’t necessarily feel the need to try to avoid this everytime. I optimised the image with the basic editing skills- setting black and white points, increasing contrast of subject, adjusting brightness etc. I then converted the image to black and white and reduced the red slider slightly to darken the subject slightly in order to create further tonal contrast. I also increased the green slider slightly to lighten the grass a little.


Image 3- I love this picture! The cute ‘peeping’ around the door pose creates a really fun image. When shooting this shot I measured the exposure of the lightest and darkest parts of the image, and chose an exposure in between. This worked well, and created a well exposed shot. I picked this scene, as I knew the texture of the door and walls would convert well to monochrome. The dark tones of the background work beautifully in bringing out the light tones of Lynne’s face- making her stand out well. In editing, I used the general steps to optimise the image, and converted the photo to black and white. I then reduced the red sliders to bring out the details in Lynne’s face, and reduced the yellow sliders to darken the grass a little- creating tonal contrast between the door and the grass.


Image 4- This is my favourite image of the set. It was completely candid- and I love the natural expression on Lynne’s face. The dark grass and Lynne’s dark hair work well in creating tonal contrast with her face. The black and white conversion in this image worked in strengthening this contrast greatly- making the subject’s face the focal point of the image. I got Lynne to open her coat for this image, as I wanted to create variety throughout the images; however it was a cold day, so we couldn’t remove the coat altogether too often! I optimised the image in editing, and converted it to black and white. I then reduced the red sliders- as I have begun to learn that this brings out the detail in the subject’s face. I then reduced the greens to darken the background slightly- further making the subject’s face the focal point of the image.

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Image 5- This image is overflowing with texture, which is exactly why I chose this scene! It was the end of the shoot, and we discovered these steps leading to no-where, in the middle of no-where! It was such a quirky scene, and I knew it would look great in black and white due to the strong textures. For this shot I got Lynne to remove her coat altogether (which took a lot of persuasion!), this aided in creating variety to the set of shots which my tutor has suggested previously. The light background against the dark staircase again creates nice tonal contrasts here. I optimised the image and converted it to black and white. I then increased the yellow slider to lighten the steps and hedge, as they looked a little underexposed. I then darkened the cyans and blues to bring out the clouds in the sky- adding texture to the previous mass of white. I loved this effect- and feel that adjusting the RGB sliders is a great tool in adding further control over my images.

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Image 6- Again we see the many textures in the background of this image. The large wooden fence pole, barbed wire and tree trunk create strong textures which work well when converted to monochrome. The light hazy background against the dark tones of the rest of the image creates good tonal contrasts which also make this image perfect for black and white conversion. I measured a mid-tone in this image to get the correct exposure, and this seemed to work well in getting an even exposure throughout. I optimised the image, and converted it to black and white. I didn’t make any dramatic changes to the RGB sliders, but simply reduced the red very slightly to bring out a little more detail in the subject’s face.


Image 7- For this shot I wanted the focus to be completely on Lynne’s face, so the background is completely plain. The stark contrast between the dark tones of Lynne’s black hair and her pale face make for a great monochrome image. I measured the exposure of my hand for this shot, which seemed to work great in bringing out a good overall exposure. I optimised the image, and converted to black and white. I then increased the red to lighten Lynne’s complexion as one side of her face was slightly shaded. I also increased the yellow and green slightly to lighten the background in order to prevent the image from appearing too dreary. I was happy with the finished result, and feel that the soft lighting and black and white conversion has aided in giving Lynne a wonderfully soft complexion.

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