A world in mono



All images are my own unless otherwise stated.

Black and white photography, or mono photography as it is known in the field, has always provided very mixed reviews, which is why I have decided to blog about it. I am looking for people who are opinionated and are willing to share why they either love it or hate it.

This blog isn’t to say that black and white is best or right or wrong, or to say that my way is the only way, but it is just to say that there is another option when your in doubt with some of your images, other than sticking to just colour. It is also just to say that I personally love mono photography and why.

I personally love black and white photography because it expresses the subject in a stripped down and bare way. In other words it takes away the distraction of colour in order to focus on the subject. When I am editing my images in Lightroom in colour, there are many times I am not happy with what I have taken. Not because of the angle or content, but because there is too much going on in the picture as a whole. In nearly all cases I click the black and white option and instantly the picture just jumps out at me.

Take this image below of Geese flying in to land. I was really pleased with capturing this image, as they took me by surprise, which meant that I had no time to make any adjustments to my camera. Lucky for me the camera settings were fine and it focused on the Geese perfectly and the shot was taken.

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When I uploaded it amongst others onto the pc I was really pleased with the image overall, but then I decided to give it the mono touch (black and white) after a Twitter friend suggested that he thought it would look better. So I decided to take his advice and he was right. It pulled out the drama of the water when the Geese landed and made things stand out better in general, but I will let you be the judge on that one. The images below of a boat wreck and a beach which are both dramatic and atmospherical. They are both sold in colour which feel and look completely different, but for me personally the colour images are far more striking for both subjects. So much do I feel this that I have hung the boat wreck image on my wall for my wife as she liked it that much. Again I have given both in colour down below the mono images, so you decide which one you feel is best.

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Now back to why mono works so well. For me personally, liking black and white is simple. The atmospherical effect that it gives an image can be staggering. The three images below are very good examples of this. One is of an ancient look-out tower called Scrabo Tower, which was built in the time of the Vikings, to warn locals when any Viking ships were approaching. I think it is a stunning piece of architecture in colour, but when I got the images home I felt they needed more to create the right atmosphere so to capture what it is about. Giving it the mono touch really did that and the extra help from the dramatic clouds really pulled me back into those dark times and gave the feeling that I was there.

The middle image is quite different, but just as dramatic. It is part of an old school, which sits just outside the village of Portaferry. Because it sits in ruin I wanted to give the person who is observing it a feeling of sadness and that it is of days gone by. Even though I feel this, I hope that I have done this for you and others who look at both of these images. The third image is of a  dandelion seed head, which when I saw it for the first time on computer in colour, blew me away even in colour with it’s intricate design. When however I changed it to mono it just jumped out of the computer monitor at me. The different contrast between light and darks were very noticeable and gave the seed head more definition and helped it stand out  from the backround.

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Besides giving photos atmosphere and drama Mono photography can create just a pleasing feeling to the observers eyes. With the colours taken away it can also give a more calm and peaceful feeling to whoever is looking at it. I really like the differences between light and dark contrasts. Something you don’t really get with colour photographs, but that’s not to say colour is wrong or a bad thing. The image of The dark hedges by one of my Twitter friends Matthew Weatherall shows this really well. It brings out the individual trees dramatically with the light and darks of the image.

Matt's Hedge pic

Below are a mixture of some more of my own images to give you some idea of how mono can impact the way an image can be portrayed. The Husky puppy works very well in mono as it’s tones are whites, blacks and greys anyway. It’s one example where it can work either in colour or mono. The tiger which was taken at Dublin zoo is also a great example of this dual effect, with its striking markings in black and white you could be forgiven for thinking that it is a Siberian Tiger and not a Bengal Tiger.

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The Water wheel below was taken at the fabulous Belfast Folk museum by Holywood Exchange. If you’ve never been there then go. This wheel looks fabulous with the sunrays shining over it and the mono tones again make it even more dramatic. The image Father & Son as I like to call it shows two boats at the shoreline. This image was changed vastly when put in black and white. I personally love it much better and would display it in that way. I feel it even changed its perspective and gave it more depth.

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Something completely different is the Moroccan candle cradle. I couldn’t decide which one looked better the warm rich colours reflecting on the wall or the mono image, which gave the feel that it was taken from a scene out of the film Casablanca. so I did both. I have put the colour example next to it so you decide for yourself and let me know.

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Whatever your point of view is on mono photography I would welcome your opinions on this subject. Whether I agree with them or not doesn’t really matter. It is what is important to you that counts and if that is what floats your boat then that is fine, as long as you can agree to disagree, when others have their own opinions.

I love photography in general, both colour and mono and if you are taking a photo of say coloured cabins that are positioned along a beach and the colour is the main focal point of that image, then that image should be in colour. If however you are  looking for some drama, contrast or atmosphere in an image then mono is perfect for that in my opinion, but that is just my opinion of course.

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