I AM NIKON Blog

Back to Basics – Monochrome photography

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Following our last blog on 360° Panoramic Photography – the first of the three photography trends we’re predicting in 2013, we’re excited to be revealing our next trend: Monochrome photography.

To talk us through this trend in more detail we caught up with Jeremy Walker, an award winning British photographer, specialising in high quality landscape and location photography from around the world.

Through his work he is exposed to a variety of photo trends, but with recent photography fashion relying on the application of filters and effects he believes we will respond by taking a back to basics approach – producing beautiful, classic and elegant black and white photography.

Can you talk us through what Monochrome photography is?

Black and white images take us back to where photography began. Creating monochrome images is photography in its simplest, raw form. They are uncluttered from the distractions of colour, focusing purely on the photo’s tone, texture, shape, drama, mood and crucially on its visual impact.

Slains Castle, Scotland.

Image © Jeremy Walker taken with a Nikon D3X at focal length 35mm, ISO 100, aperture f/8, exposure time 30sec

Why will we see more of it in 2013?

We live in a world of colour, widescreen televisions, iPads and smartphones – we are bombarded with bright images from every angle, every day. Black and white photography is the antidote to the modern world. It is imaging at its creative best that will stand out from the crowd. When done right, it can be visionary, a novelty. It is still considered to be cool and it is definitely art.

Monochrome images suit a broad spectrum of subject matter, from people and architecture to travel and landscapes. They work well in all lighting conditions and ‘poor’ light can become moody and dramatic – a photographer’s best friend.

Above all black and white imagery has simplicity and depth – qualities that in a colour world will stand out from the crowd and have impact.

Jeremy Walker 2_small

Image © Jeremy Walker taken with a Nikon D200 at 200 ISO with NIKKOR 70-200mm at focal length 200mm, shutter speed 1/250 secs, aperture f/2.8, hand held with vibration reduction on

Can you share with us any tips for getting the most out of beautiful black and white photography?

Give your image depth – Due to the lack of colour to lead the eye, look for foreground interest, middle distance subject matter and then ideally something in the background when framing your shot. If you choose to isolate one element instead, place it a third of the way into the frame – this is known as the ‘Rule of Thirds’, a technique photographers have been using successfully for years.

Consider all angles and viewpointsSearch for the quirky and different, avoid following the crowd. The lack of colour forces the viewer to concentrate much more on the composition, so be creative. The Nikon D5200’s vari-angle LCD monitor helps you take images from virtually any position.

Observe the natural direction of the lightMonitor how it changes during the day and with varying weather conditions. Identifying strong shadows, tones, textures and shapes will be integral to the monochrome image. Artificial light sources such as street lamps and torches can be useful as you will not have to worry about creating unwanted colour casts.

Experiment with different shutter speedsSlower shutter speeds will introduce blur, motion and a new dynamic to an image. By mounting your camera on a tripod you can use slow shutter speeds of seconds or even minutes to produce ghostly, ethereal black and white images. This works at its best when one part of the subject moves during the exposure and goes blurry (such as waves) and one element is stationary and will remain sharp (cliffs and rocks) – a perfect technique for coastal scenes, rivers and waterfalls.

Try moving the camera during the exposure Usually known as panning, choose a moving subject, such as a person running, a car or a train, point the camera at your subject and move in the same direction of travel. If you use a moderately slow shutter speed (such as a 15th of a second) your subject will be sharp but the background blurred, giving a sense of motion and direction. However, you will need to experiment with different speeds before you find the ideal setting.

If you’re inspired by Jeremy’s tips, will you be giving black and white photograph a try? Let us if there’s any tips you’d like to share with fans by commenting below!

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  1. Jack

    Beautiful black and white photos here. This is something I don’t really focus on too often during my photography excursions. I’ve only ever been successful with one black and white, but I didn’t mean to get it. The picture looked terrible exposure wise, but I like the composition. I tried it out and it gave brand new life to the photo. I was amazed. I am thinking this will be yet another reason to dust off some of my digital cameras to see if I can get the ultimate black and white. Oh, I love your tip on moving the camera during exposure. I’ve gotten some really neat shots by zooming during in or out during longer exposures too.