Black and White (Monochrome) Photography Topic of April Meeting

Along the Way, by Bob Little

Ken Duquaine

When photography was invented in 1839, it was almost exclusively a black and white medium and remained so for almost 100 years. Once color photography became accepted and readily available, however, black and white photography became something of a niche market. And what about today? If the member galleries of the Sun Lakes Camera Club (SLCC) are representative of photographers in general, it would seem that monochrome photography is still far less popular than color. Out of a total of 601 photos in our members’ galleries, only 11 percent of them are monochrome.

And while monochrome photography can be somewhat intimidating for the beginner, there is something especially appealing about a great black and white photo. When the powerful distraction of color is removed from a photo, a black and white image that emphasizes such aspects as lines, shapes, contrast, texture, and form can be quite striking, as even a cursory review of the work of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, or Henri Cartier-Bresson will demonstrate. The photo Along the Way, by member Bob Little, demonstrates those same concepts very well.

And so where does the photographer wishing to tiptoe into this exciting genre begin? Monochrome photography lends itself particularly well to certain subjects such as landscapes, portraits, and street photography. To get started, one has two options: shoot in color and convert to black and white using a post-processing program or switch the camera to its monochrome mode if it has that capability. Each method has its advantages. Shooting in color maintains all of the original, natural colors of the shot, and modern post-processing programs allow you to convert to monochrome with the click of a button. Once in monochrome, there are many available adjustments and filters that can be employed during the editing process. And while “seeing in black and white” is the goal, it’s a skill that takes time to develop. Shooting in monochrome mode allows you to actually see the image that you’re going to shoot in monochrome by using the live view function of your camera if it has that feature. When using this option, you should definitely shoot in RAW rather than JPEG, since your RAW files can be reverted back to color with the click of a mouse should you decide that you prefer the color shot over the monochrome.

For those interested in learning more about monochrome photography, you won’t want to miss our April 7 Sun Lakes Camera Club (SLCC) meeting, during which Jim Smith of the Saguaro Camera Club will be giving a presentation entitled “Seeing in Black and White.”

The Sun Lakes Camera Club meets the first and third Thursdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Mirror Room of the Sun Lakes Country Club, from October through April. For more information about the SLCC and its activities, call SLCC President Lynn Thompson at 480-734-0040, or past President Jan Ballard at 602-621-3344, and visit our website at