It’s all about the color, or is it? Many subjects can actually look better – have more impact – when the color is removed. Folks commonly call it Black and White photography. However, it doesn’t have to be only black and white. A more generic name is Monochrome. That name embraces toned prints, for example Sepia. I’ll show you what I mean and let you decide if color is all that important.
Here is one of my images that I shot while hiking in New Mexico. By the way, I always shoot in color and convert to monochrome in my editing workflow. I do that for two very good reasons: 1) Flexibility – I can always print the image in color as well; 2) Tonality – Having the image in a color space allows me to get a better tonal separation. Okay, the second reason might have to be the subject of another post – one that goes into the actual workflow.
To create a good monochrome requires one to concentrate on 4 attributes: Composition, Tonality, Impact and Quality (Technical merits). You want your image to please the viewer – good composition makes the image “feel right” to the viewer. Tonality refers to the grey tones within the image when, chosen correctly, the object has shape and will have a pronounced separation from the background. If you chose an interesting subject, use the light to enhance it, or pick a composition or a unique view that makes the subject have more interest, you increase the images’ influence on the viewer. This is termed Impact. Quality is a simple concept but also hard to achieve. It requires everything about the image to feel well done. For example, the sharpness throughout the image has to be balanced and appropriate. There can be no inappropriate lack of sharpness but harsh over-sharpening has to be avoided.