Learning Photography: When to Convert a Color Photograph to Black and White

I went up to my roof yesterday for a late afternoon walk, my first time in a year and a half of living in my building. At first, I had the roof to myself, and it was lovely, with a view of the setting sun against the sea on one side and a lush green canopy of trees on the other side. The floor was a lovely colorful mosaic of broken ceramic pieces, little plant shoots grew out of rusty pipes, and pigeons and parrots perched on parapets and awnings. I want to spend more time up on the terrace with my camera; I just need to time my terrace walks so that I’m alone.

Here’s a photograph of two pigeons on an awning against trees lush green from the monsoon rain. The color version is undoubtedly more attractive at first glance, but the bright green and yellow of the trees pull our attention away from the gray pigeons. In the black and white version, I have darkened the greens and yellows, and used a gradient filter to reduce the clarity of the trees, to make the pigeons more prominent.

Typically, high contrast photos with strong highlights and strong shadows are the best candidates for converting into black and white. This is not a particularly high contrast photo; almost all the detail is in the blacks and shadows, with a thin sliver of highlights and whites at the edge of the awning. But, almost all the color is in the background, and removing it makes the subject stand out, resulting in a better picture, I think. Which one do you prefer?

I am happy that I remembered to shoot this photo at both f2 and f5.6 apertures, something I have been trying to teach myself. The f2 resulted in a shallower depth of field, with more background blur in the trees, and stronger subject separation, which is a better choice for this composition.

I’m learning that maybe 80% of photography is about pointing the camera at a compelling subject and clicking the shutter, but at least 20% of photography is about making small choices like these, and that 20% makes all the difference.

More tomorrow.

By Gaurav Mishra

Learning to see the #beauty, #play and #vitality in #quarantinelife, mostly by learning to make photos and learning to write about them.

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