Black and white photography or monochromatic photography is a specialized method of creating images which are partially or completely washed of colour. Black and white images are not stark sharp images with only black and white contrasted against each other; these images are a combination of these two shades which generally produces images in shades of grey along the continuum. In essence this type of photography gives one the opportunity to create very distinct imagery as the shades of the subject are what is reflected and not the colours.
Achieving black and white photographs is quite easy with a variety of techniques ranging from shooting with black and white film, activating the RAW on a digital camera, adding filters in front of your lens, or simply shooting in colour with a digital camera and digitally converting the images into black and white with conversion tools such as greyscale, saturation and channel mixer.
In capturing black and white image, it would be best for a photographer to first learn to see without colour. To do so the eyes literally have to be trained to see the world in shades of grey. This is not as difficult as it may seem, it only takes practice.
In our natural world for example, the winter season especially where there is snow, provides the perfect monochromatic atmosphere. First snowfall provides a pure white blanket that almost completely smothers all colours from the surroundings. Something as simple as early morning fog provides a kind of blanket that shrouds the colours and gives a plethora of grey shades to shoot in. Without the opportunity to experience these temperate climates, something as simple as a sheet of white paper against a dark back ground or against a dark desk provides amazing contrast for natural black and white imagery.
The best black and white photos are just great images like any another. However, the photographer was able to move beyond the spectacular colours to see the distinct shapes, textures and tones of an image even before they have shot it. They are able to visualize from the outset how their subject would look in shades of grey that are significantly different in relation to its background.
Monochromatic photography is said to produce optical purity that does not detract from the beauty or intensity of an image. The success of exceptional black and white photography is largely dependent on the ability to balance the tones in the image after the colour is removed. Black and white photography is only a successful phenomenon when the differences in tones between different elements in the scene can be seen and taken advantage of to create a sense of depth. These images are also enhanced by also taking advantage of the lines and lighting in an effort to balance, and in many cases compensate for the lack of colour.
Black and white photography whether to show contrast, form, or even selective colour is a beautiful work of art that has an undefinable characteristic that is magnetic.