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There are two reasons to shoot black and white photography. One reason is because you think it looks old fashioned and it’s a cool effect. A better reason to shoot black and white photography is because of the lessons it can teach you. Black and White Photography teaches you about values. We’re not talking about ethical values but the value in a monotone sense where color is taken out of the picture and we can focus on value as a single element.
What is Value in Photography?
High value is white and low value is black, you can see below a visual representation of value scale.
Histograms break down the value of a photograph.
Once you understand value you can use it to create stark contrasts or to create soft, subtle compositions. Value in the photography world really just translates to light. If you have a heavily lighted photography it is high on the value scale. If you have a low lighted photograph then it is low on the value scale.
Great Black and White Photographers
Ansel Adams understood the dynamics of black and white photography along with other essential elements and principals of design and photography. A part of this could be that he didn’t meddle with color, since we often get distracted by color and loose the value of the composition. To truly understand composition shooting black and white photography is something you have to try as not just an “effect”, but as a teaching tool.