Thursday, October 10, 2013

What Makes A Good Black & White Photograph Good?

What makes a good black-and-white image good? What is it that separates a good monochrome photograph from an average one?

Contrast. Design. Story Telling. Mystery. CreativityThe decisive moment. Vision.

Let's take a closer look at some black-and-white images.
Window Through Time - Loraine, California
This photograph is successful because of contrast (e.g. window vs. wall) and also repeated lines. There is also a bit of storytelling and mystery.
Dilapidated Structure - Loraine, California
This photograph is about contrast and repeated lines.
Dilapidated Design - Lancaster, California
This photograph is about curves and contrast.
Curves - Tehachapi, California
Repeated curves and contrast (specifically the shadow vs. highlights on the closer curves) are what make this photograph work.
Old Wood Pile - Mojave, California
This is another good example of contrast and repeated lines. I will note here that contrast is meaningless unless it guides the viewer to where you want them to go. In this case, the contrast on the pallet attracts the eye, and then the lines take the viewer into the photograph. 
Abandoned Homestead - Tehachapi, California
This photograph is about story telling and mystery. There is also some subtle contrast that helps the viewer see what I want the viewer to see.
Memories of a Sunny Day - Mojave, California
The decisive moment, which in this case involves the position of the sun, is what makes this image work. 
Destroyed By Fire - Victorville, California
Again we see story telling, mystery and contrast all working together.
Three Nails Left - Tehachapi, California
This photograph would not have been very good if not for the dark nails against the light background.
Comfy Chair - Mojave, California
Another good example of story telling, mystery and contrast. Note how the light chair is placed against a dark part of the structure, creating contrast to draw the eye in.
On A Brighter Day - Tehachapi, California
Contrast is what this image is all about.
Roadway - Caliente, California
I captured this image at the decisive moment, and that is what makes it successful. 
Dog And Butterfly - Lancaster, California
This photograph is about repeated lines as well as mystery and story telling. There is also good contrast around the dog.
Pathway To The Soul - Tehachapi, California
The above photograph is a black-and-white image with some yellow added to the highlights and blue added to the shadows. It is a story telling image that includes some mystery (what good story doesn't?). Also note the contrast at the man's head and the shovel, bringing the eye to where it should go.
Over The Creek - Stallion Springs, California
This image is about contrast and mystery.
Antique Lock - Bodfish, California
Repeated shapes, as well as subtle contrast, are what make this image work.
Motorcycle Engine - Tehachapi, California
This photograph is about contrast and repeated lines.
Surfers - Avila Beach, California
This is a good example of the decisive moment, story telling and contrast.
Monochrome Circles - Mojave, California
Contrast and repeated shapes make this image successful.
Tire And Hose - Mojave, California
Again you see contrast and repeated shapes. Areas where light and dark meet are where the eye is immediately attracted to. If anything, this image has too much contrast. 
Wave And Three Rocks - Pismo Beach, California
Perspective and subtle contrast are what make this image interesting.

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