The Challenge of Black and White

"A Momentary Pause"

As you fine people might have noticed, I sorta kinda mostly tend to produce color images. According to my math, it's about 100% of the time. (But who are we kidding, I'm terrible at math...) Well my friends, there has been this vile thing lurking around the interwebs in which a photographer "challenges" another photographer to create a black and white image.  Then that photographer challenges someone else and so on and so forth. It's like an evil monochromatic chain letter monster stampeding the color out of everything.  Ok, so in all honesty it isn't really evil per-say, but challenge is definitely a good word for it (at least when it comes to me and my work). I just love color. I love how different tones can evoke emotions and moods and visually make the viewer look at the image in a different way. Color can aid in composition and help to highlight key attributes of the image. Carefully crafted color can drive the viewer's eye around an image like a road map. When that extra creative tool is left out of the creative process, it's a whole new ball game (but no balls are involved....) 

Well, you guessed it, a certain photographer who will go unnamed (it was James Millie) was challenged to create a black and white image and passed the burden onto me.  So there I sat, weeping at my computer, mourning the loss of the beautiful tones of color that were to be stripped away from the image I was to create.  Ok, let's get serious for a second (but not too serious, because duh, it's me writing this), black and white images are classically beautiful and when done correctly are every bit as wonderful as color photos. I hope I haven't offended any B&W enthusiast with my talk of its evil ways. I actually really love black and white photography and have very high respect for artists that can pull it off so well. It's a LOT more complicated than just clicking "desaturate."

I find that what makes a B&W photo a good one is the tonal range. Without all the colors to mess with, you only have darks and lights at your disposal. If you just click desaturate in Photoshop and think, "Cool, this looks great. What an amazing black and white masterpiece I've made - all done, moving on," it's more likely you've actually just created a flat muddy pile of grey poo. The first thing you need to do differently is use the "Black & White Adjustment Layer" instead of just desaturating. Not only does it give you way more control, but it's also "non-destructive." This way you still have the colored pixels under your adjustment layer in case you ever wanted a color version.  The next most important thing is contrast; it's almost always the case that a black and white image likes to be a bit more contrasty than a color version. If everything in your image becomes a neutral shade of grey, your picture won't have any... how you say...Uumph. It's good to have some darker darks and lighter lights. Even without color you can still drive the viewer's eye to where you want it to go.  

I've often attempted to release a colorless image, but I always cave at the last minute and turn the color back on. Well not this time. I embarked on this image knowing full-well that I was not allowed to release it in color. I decided to go super simple. I was going to focus on the fact that the image was B&W and not try to snazz it up with crazy Photoshop effects. Elements like flying bits of...well, anything, would not be present. (Let me tell you this took some major restraint on my part.) I wanted to create a portrait that portrayed a girl taking a minute to close her eyes, disappear into her brain, and just sorta center herself for a second. I'm betting we have all experienced this from time to time; when you just take a deep mental breath and revel in a brief moment of calmness. Like a 14 second meditation session or something... In the end I was very happy with how the image turned out, and had a lot of fun being challenged to try something different. 

Anywhoo, enough about my trials and tribulations of creating an image void of color. I have other important things to talk about. For example, sometimes in life you get to be a part of something really special. This is one of those times. You see, there is this website you may have heard of called "Awake Platform." It's still in it's infancy as far as web sites go, but already it's a growing powerhouse of brilliant creative-y goodness. When Awake Platform was still being dreamt up, they reached out to me and asked if I would be a part of their team. (Uhmm, yes please.) It's such a truly wonderful group of creative minds and I'm so lucky to be among them. I get to contribute things like the post I just wrote for them. It's five handy dandy super fancy (in your pantsy?...) tips and tricks! Please hop on over and check out my new post, but more importantly take a few minutes to peruse the rest of the site and see all the amazingly inspiring things they have to offer! GO CHECK IT OUT!!!

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