Black & White Portraits & Glamour

B&W Glamour photography

1/125 sec at f/13 and ISO 100

There is more to black and white photography than simply an absence of color. Maybe I wouldn’t feel this way if the first photographs had been made in full color but that didn’t happen and, like many photographers of my generation, I grew up admiring the works of W. Eugene Smith and other black and white photojournalists who photographed people at work, play, or just being themselves. As a creative medium, traditionalists may call it “monochrome” and digital imagers may prefer “grayscale,” but to paraphrase Billy Joel, “it’s still black and white to me.”

Black and white is a wonderful media for making portraits because the lack of color immediately simplifies the image, causing you to focus on the real subject of the photograph instead of their clothing or surroundings. Sometimes the nature of the portrait subject demands that the image be photographed in black and white. Arnold Newman’s portrait of composer Igor Stravinsky could never have been made in color and have the same impact that is has as a monochrome image.

There are also the trendy aspects associated with creating images in black and white. TV, motion pictures and fashion magazines periodically “rediscover” black and white as a way to reproduce images that are different from what’s currently being shown. Right now, many portrait and wedding photographers are telling me that they’re seeing a higher than normal demand for monochrome than previously was the case. Individual and family portrait purchases like these are driven by these same trends.

While you could always use real color filters on your camera to archive the same effects there are major advantages of using digital filters: While most in-camera metering systems automatically take “filter factors” into consideration, you still have to look through and compose through a colored filter whose factor might range from three and five. In addition, a purely digital solution is an easier one to live because the exposure for no filter is identical to one with the dark red filter.

Filter Factor: Any light lost due to absorption depends on the type of filter being used and is expressed as a filter factor and is usually marked on the filter ring. A 2X factor means exposure must be increased by 1 stop, and 3X means one and one-half stops. When using several filters at the same time, filter factors aren’t added but are multiplied. Today’s sophisticated camera metering systems automatically takes filter factors into consideration.

Author: Joe Farace

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