Extreme Black and White
When we talk about black and white photography we really understand it as covering the full range of shades of gray from totally black to fully white. The monitor screen on which you are most likely to read this shows just 256 distinct shades. For this article I am presenting some extremes that cover a much more limited range.
The absolute extreme, of just black and white, is normally called “silhouettes”, showing a form totally black or white against an opposite background. My “Bird on a Fence” here is an example of that.
Another genre is “low key”, photos that are predominantly black. My “Two Glasses” is of that type. In fact, this is a color photo.
There is much that can be done with “extreme black and white” that fits into and outside these categories. Here are some examples.
As you can see, many of my images here are strongly manipulated to take the image to the “extreme”.
And now just a little help here to get you started making silhouettes and similar “extreme black and white” images. Start with a photo that has strong shapes and contrast. The example here uses leaves against the sky. I will use my favorite tool, Photo Gallery, here. Of course, more powerful editing software will allow you much more creative control.
An ideal photo will have a lot off light areas and a lot of dark areas and few middle tones. You can see this in the histogram that shows the tonal values from black to white. There is a “hole” in the middle of the data showing the scarcity of mid-tone values.
The first step is turning the image into a B&W. Photo Gallery has tools for that in the Effects area of the Edit ribbon.
The slider under the histogram can be used to turn this into an “extreme black and white” image. Move the white slider, on the right under the histogram, to the left until all parts of the image that are light in color are now fully white.
Then bring the black slider up to turn what remains black, or mostly so.
If you put the black slider right up and over the white slider you will have a pretty good silhouette. If you stopped short, you have a pretty extreme black and white image.
Some photos lend themselves to being turned into such graphic black and white images, but it is best if you have that idea in mind when taking the picture so you can make sure you have the contrast and strong figures to start with.
© 2015 Ludwig Keck