With modern digital photography, everything we shoot is colour. Switching a photo to black and white is an active choice. You may set it in camera but otherwise you can do this when editing, giving you more control. In this short blog series I’m examining some of the reasons I have chosen to turn a photo monochrome. As I said in the previous post, sometimes it is about finding the soul of an image. This time I want to flatten perspective, which might sound like a bad idea but I will explain why.
Sometimes when I take a photo my eye is drawn to one main focal point. I know what I want the photo to be about, but when I look at the photo on the screen later I find I’m looking somewhere else. The lightest parts of the image nearly always draw the eye. A deep perspective can also make you look at the part of the image which is furthest away. If that’s not what I want then I need to flatten perspective.
This photo of choir pews is a pattern image with a very shallow depth of field. The whole idea of a shallow depth of field is to get the viewer to pay the most attention on the small, sharp area of the photo. The problem here is that there are lots of interesting bits of the photo to look at. There are bright areas above and below and pretty patterns.
I’m only trying to make one point with this photo, but I think it’s being missed. I’m trying to say “look at this pattern in perspective” but I find my eyes darting all over the place.
Turning the photo black and white has simplified it and allowed me to make my point. I do think that I’m looking at it the way I wanted, now the colour has gone. Can you notice this difference?
Stone House and Gate
The second photo of a stone house behind a gate is a little boring in colour. The sunlight picks out a pattern on the gate and the house is quite charming. The light on the stone gables of the house is the really interesting part, but it feels quite far away.
To flatten perspective I turned the image black and white. That means that the distant house seems nearer and sits better in the centre of the photo. It doesn’t seem so far away behind the gate.
The depth was unhelpful, and having the gate and house appear closer just makes more sense. Do you agree?
Monochrome to Flatten Perspective
In both cases I did not realise that the photo needed a black and white treatment at the time that I shot it. That’s something I figured it out later in editing. I almost never go out to take photos aiming to make them black and white. I’d need a lot more practice to get the eye for that.
This blog series on Reasons to Shoot Black and White continues with the next post about removing distractions.
Read about my monochrome peacock edit in “Adding Filters to Photos for Unusual Effects”
Read my previous photography critique series on “Judging a Photograph” from the start.
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