David Saffir: Thinking and Seeing In Black and White (Part 1 of 3)
Mar 2013 14

From a photographer’s point of view, “seeing in black and white” means being able to look at a color image or scene, and visualize its appearance in black and white.

This isn’t, generally, a matter of innate sensibility or talent – it’s a matter of understanding what to look for, and practicing until one becomes proficient. And why do this? The best reason, in my view, is that black and white images offer the photographer different, and frequently better, avenues for expression and communication.

Black and white images offer simplicity, without necessarily “dumbing down” the image. Images rendered in black and white are reduced to their graphic elements, eliminating the influence and distraction of color. The emphasis shifts to shapes and patterns, texture vs. smoothness, the extremes of light and shadow, and mid-tones. And with color gone, content is king!

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David Saffir: Thinking and Seeing In Black and White – Part 2 of 3
Mar 2013 19

This is an image I captured in New York City, late at night – the original as shot in color at ISO 400. I braced the camera against a windowsill. I could see from the start that tonal values were differentiated to the extent that the image would require little post-production work for a nice black and white effect.

In fact, the only significant things I did in post included pulling the end points toward the center in a Levels adjustment layer, and converting to black and white using another adjustment layer.

The deep shadows on the left, the dark parking area at top, the shadow on the right, and the dark street at the bottom provide a frame for the rest of the image. The midtone values of the sidewalk are a wonderful backdrop, with light texture providing a bit more depth to the image. The shadowy, blurred view of the pedestrians adds a bit of mystery – who are they, and where are they going?

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