Shades of Gray – A black and White Story

When I think of black and white photography, I envision a photograph that was originally taken by using the black and white setting on my camera, or originally taken in color and processed by using a black and white filter. Either way, I consider light, contrast, subject, and composition to ensure a pleasing outcome as not all scenes lend themselves to black and white conversions. Most good black and white photos have varying shades of gray on a spectrum between black and white. As a general rule, but not always, the most interesting part of the photo will be where the contrast is greatest.

I took the photo above in New York City a few years ago. The image, which was applied to the side of a building like wallpaper simulating a trumpe-l’oeil, had some color; mostly faded shades of pink. You can tell it must have been there for a while, because the paper is peeling. The juxtaposition of the worn and tattered paper, to the sweetness of the image is what first caught my attention. The artist signature was not visible, and my internet search was unsuccessful, so I took the liberty of giving this piece a name – caged beauty. What would you name it?

I have included the following image, which is technically not a black and white, or a color pop, simply because I like it. If you have visited Montmartre in Paris, you have likely encountered the hordes of artists vying to create your likeness in charcoal. After studying a few artists, my daughter and I chose the one who eventually drew this portrait because of his attention to eyes. I watched quietly as the image came to life on canvas, observing his quick, precise movements; marveling at his talent as he captured the windows to her soul perfectly. Youth and beauty juxtaposed against his weathered, charcoal stained hand compelled me to take this photo. Although I love the finished portrait, this is the image that tells the story.

The flower below is a simple black and white conversion created in my Iphone. I took the photo in color, with my Lumix GX7 and transferred it to my phone to make the basic edit. It is a quick and easy way to see if I want to take it further with Photoshop or Nik. Personally, I like the color better, so I won’t be converting it.

Black and white images don’t have to be manufactured, and often happen quite naturally. In the four images below, the subject is white, and the background is black/gray. These are literally black and white images. I used Photoshop, and Snapseed (for the quill) to darken the background, brighten the white, and enhance texture within all four images. In three of the four, I enhanced the additional colors to add interest without stealing the show.

This post is linked to Second Wind Leisure Perspective – Sunday Stills Photo Challenge. Terri’s theme this week is Black and White. Anyone can participate, just go over to Terri’s blog and read the rules. While you are there, check out how others have interpreted the theme.

I am also linking up with Natalie’s Weekend Coffee Share, where people from all walks of life share their stories, passions, and everyday lives. This week she shares her thoughts on coping with the past year.

39 thoughts on “Shades of Gray – A black and White Story

  1. I had never been much of a b&w fan, but since I started painting with any regularity, I’ve changed my mind completely. I’ve fallen in love with b&w’s complexity of light and shadow.

    I love your photo of the artist’s hands against the image he’s creating … for all the reasons you stated. A beautiful shot!


  2. Hi Suzanne – this was really interesting and I find it fascinating to know that there’s such a process behind what looks so simple. Loved the first photo the most – just gorgeous.


  3. Hi, Suzanne – Once again, your photographs are absolutely stunning. I especially like the photo that you captured of the artists’ hands creating your daughter’s image. I agree that that shot tells the deeper story.
    I’ve just begun to use Snapseed on my phone. Some aspects I love (like adding a quick and easy frame). Other features, like the ‘Healing’ tool, or trying to figure out how to deepen one specific colour, I need more work with.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Six Favourite Photographs: #SundayStills Black & White Edition – Retirement Reflections

  5. Gorgeous B&W’s Suzanne! thanks for the technical aspect shared here a well. I agree with your assessment of the orchids, color all the way! But my fave is the bird in your gallery with the red beak! I happened to spot this on Weekend Coffee share.


  6. Wow, Suzanne, these images are stunning. I really like the first one, “Caged beauty”, but my favorites are the ones in the slideshow. They zingggg! Especially with the color contrasts. You are incredibly creative and talented!


  7. Amazing B&W photos, Suzanne. You’re very talented to capture the essence of an object and make it extraordinary. Thank you for linking up with #WeekendCoffeeShare.


  8. A great title, Suzanne! Interesting how the concept of “gray” (Canadian ‘grey’) surfaces. Wow, caged beauty! The portrait with the attention to eyes……another, wow! Thank you for sharing a beautiful post. I know I will look at images in a different way from now on.


  9. Suzanne,
    Impressive work! I love the bird with a touch of red. B & W photography is an art form unto itself. I admire anyone who can pull it off, and you understand the fundamentals better than most. Thanks for sharing! Joe


  10. I love black and white photos. I love color, too, but there’s something about black and white photos that draw me in and keep my attention. That is a very interesting moment in time you captured while your daughter’s portrait was being drawn. And your feather is exquisite!


  11. Suzanne, your stories and your photos are lovely. The photo of your daughter’s portrait and the painters hand along with quill are my two favorites, although the first one is certainly eye catching. A great post. 🙂


  12. Pingback: #CBWC #Sunday Stills: What’s in Our Italian-American Kitchen? – Marsha Ingrao – Always Write

  13. Pingback: Sunday Stills Monthly Color Challenge: Spring #Green – Second Wind Leisure Perspectives

  14. Pingback: Getting High in Black and White – Bird Weekly Photo Challenge #40 – Marsha Ingrao – Always Write

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