Inspiring Black & White Photos From The [email protected] Pool

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In light of our Black & White Anniversary Competition – which starts accepting submissions on Thursday, February 24th – we’re dedicating this week’s inspiration column to Black & White photos.  This week, we wanted to share some inspiring Black & White photos from the Shutter Photo @ Flickr Pool.  Perhaps some of these photos will inspire you and the photo that will be your submission for the competition.  So in no particular order, here is our list:

"Valley of Kings" by Jonathan RobsonValley of Kings by Jonathan Robson

Location, Location, Location.  Subject is important in a photograph.  Sometimes the subject is created and contrived by the photographer.  But sometimes the subject is a location, and that’s when a good location is important.  A location with character always wins over an uninteresting one.  Maybe that’s why so many photographers are drawn to ruins – scenes filled with ugly things always provoke curiosity and interest in the viewer.

"What for I'll love her so much, if then she'll be gone?" by Tomás RotgerWhat for I’ll love her so much, if then she’ll be gone? by Tomás Rotger

Sometimes, the best subjects are the most common every-day objects:  A piece of fruit, a stack of cards or a few blades of grass in full bloom.  Simple subjects and simple compositions are often the way to win the hearts of your viewer.  While a cluttered frame may give the viewer a lot to look at, a simple photograph shows the viewer something they never saw before:  The beauty of a familiar subject.

"Hang On In There" by Brian DayHang On in There by Brian Day

A great photo evokes emotion.  One could say that evoking emotion is the purpose of photography.  When creating a photograph, it’s important to have an emotional goal for your viewers.  Ask yourself what you want them to feel when viewing your photograph.  Then shoot to capture that mood.  Mood can be inspired and altered by so many compositional tricks.  Try experimenting with shooting angles and exposure.  If you’re shooting in black & white, however, be aware that some moods might be quite difficult in black & white.  On the other hand, black & white naturally lends itself to other emotions, like sadness or fear.

"Stretched, As Far As The Eye Can See" by SharaffStretched, As Far As The Eye Can See by Sharaff

While I believe that compositional rules are not essential to creating great and inspiring photography, I do believe that a clear understanding of the building blocks of design helps.  Or more importantly, how you use the building blocks helps to create a great photograph.  You may use the exposure to your advantage to change how one of the building blocks appeals to your viewer.  For example, a longer exposure in Sharaff’s photo softens the texture of the choppy water.

Final Thoughts

Black & White Photography can be unforgiving.  It is a challenging medium, which is why we picked it for this year’s competition.  Each of the photos I shared with you this week serves a purpose.  These were chosen to give you a better idea of the power behind a well done black & white photograph – the power which you, the photographer, can wield.  Black & White strips photography down to its most basic elements.  It’s up to you to make something of it.

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About Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father's Nikon N2000, he's been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.

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