Thoughts On Black and White Photography

December 01, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Black and White Photography in Boudoir and Portraiture

 

NSFW, 18+

 

Clients often ask me if we can shoot some of their intimate photos in black and white.  It has been said that an erotic photo in black and white is automatically considered art, whereas the same photo in full color is more likely to be considered offensive by some viewers.

Most modern digital cameras have the option of saving images as black and white, but I don't know any photographer who does it that way.  We save all of our images in color, then use software on our computer to convert the color image to black and white.  So you don't have to decide in advance which one you want.  You can have either one or both and you can change your mind later!

 

Removing the color from a photo affects how our brain perceives the image and the way we feel about it.  It simplifies the image.

Eliminating color cues forces our brain to analyze the image based only on shapes and the degree of brightness.  We can't see that the model is blushing and we can't tell if she has olive skin or brown skin.   We can't see that the room behind her is decorated in pastel feminine colors or that she has orange/red lipstick.  But we can tell if she has feminine curves and a nice smile.  In fact, since other cues are removed, those things things really stand out to us.

This concept is used heavily in art nude photography.  The model is often posed on a black or featureless background, so her body is the only object you see.   It's all about shapes, curves and shadows, like this:

 

 

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Here is an example of a photo in which conversion to black and white eliminates the distraction of bright green forest colors in the background.  Once again, this helps to focus our attention on the model and provides a more dramatic look.

Oregon, Portland, Vancouver, boudoir, intimate, erotic, engagement, discrete, hotel, kinky, sexy, private, photographer, photographers, photoshoot, photo, studio, photography, portraits, couple, coupl Oregon, Portland, Vancouver, boudoir, intimate, erotic, engagement, discrete, hotel, kinky, sexy, private, photographer, photographers, photoshoot, photo, studio, photography, portraits, couple, coupl

 

 

Contrast and brighness:

When converting color images to black and white, there is often a button to click that appears to do the whole job automatically.  Unfortunately, the resulting image usually looks pretty boring and ordinary.  It's up to the photographer to manipulate the brightness and contrast to get the desired look.  In current software like Lightroom and Photoshop, a lot of this manipulation is done with "sliders" on the screen that you move right and left.  The changes are applied to the entire image.   The trick is knowing what each slider really does.  You might use up to a dozen different sliders to create a nice looking black and white image.   If that doesn't do the job, there are lots more options!

Modern software also allows the photographer to change the brightness of certain objects in the image.  This is especially useful in a black and white photo, since brightness is now the main visual cue.

Here is an example of a rather cluttered photo before and after adjustment.  I changed the tonal values to emphasize parts of the photo that I felt were most important.  Which one do you like better?

 

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Tinting:

The most recognized form of tinting is called sepia tone.  In the old days of chemical darkrooms, the print was placed in a bath of rather poisonous chemicals to give it a pleasing brownish tone before it was washed and dried.  I sometimes like to use a sepia-like tone on photos that show a lot of skin, since it gives a warmer, more lifelike look.

 

Oregon, Portland, Vancouver, boudoir, intimate, erotic, engagement, discrete, hotel, kinky, sexy, private, photographer, photographers, photoshoot, photo, studio, photography, portraits, couple, couplErotic model DakiniErotic model Dakini

 

 

Grain:

Most of us still remember old fashioned film photography.  Many famous black and white photos taken up until around 1980 were quite grainy, due to the grains of silver halide on the film.  We now associate this look with the great photographs of the past.   It's another way to change the emotions evoked by an image.

It is easy to add grain to a photo these days, just by moving a few sliders during post-processing.  I sometimes combine grain with a bit of a tint as well.  If I'm feeling really artistic, I'll allow some of the original color to come back into the photo in specific areas.  Notice the lips on the lovely model below - just a hint of the original color.

 

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Thanks for letting me share my art with you!  If you are interested in a photoshoot for yourself or your partner, please use the contact page to drop me a note.


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