Flash of Red February Week #4!

February 20th, 2021
It’s the final week of Flash of Red 2021! You’re coming down home stretch and I know you’re going to finish strong. I hope you’ve enjoyed exploring different genres in black and white during our previous weeks. This week we’re going back to the basics. While some think black and white is a “poor relation” of color, in reality it can be far richer because black and white has the ability to bring out hidden details, textures, and shapes. By removing the distraction of color, black and white turns the attention of the viewer on to the subject itself.

Black and white photography can be summarized by five key components: shape and form, contrast, pattern, texture, and lighting. Becoming familiar with them will improve both how you see and how you take a black and white photograph. The following tips come from https://www.photographymad.com/pages/view/5-essential-tips-for-black-and-white-photography :

1) Shape and form are all-important in black and white photography. When looking for a good shot, look beyond the colors in a scene and instead focus your attention on the shapes. Arrange them in a way that emphasizes the most interesting aspect of the shape, or creates an intriguing composition of different shapes. We often think of shape in terms of what we learned in elementary school- square, triangle, circle and rectangle. But shape in photography can also be classified further in four ways: Geometric- Geometric shapes have straight, defined edges. In photography, these types of shapes are most common in man-made structures such as architectural photography. Organic: Organic structures are full of curves and may not be geometrically perfect. These types of shapes are often most found in nature, the curve of a flower petal, for example. Positive: A positive shape is what we think of first when we think of a shape. It is the shape made by an object. Negative: A negative shape is the space leftover — or where the objects in the photo aren’t. A negative space is the crack in a canyon wall, for example, or a shape created from the outline of two positive spaces.

2) Without differences in color to separate elements in your scene, you must instead introduce contrasting shades into your black and white photos. Use contrast to help separate and define the objects in your scene. You can use contrast to help your main subject stand out - for example by photographing a light subject against a dark background - and also to add depth by including a variety of tones and shades in your photo.

3) Many patterns, particularly subtle ones, often go unnoticed in color photos, because the colors draw attention away from the pattern itself. Black and white photography gives you a much better chance of capturing interesting patterns because it focuses the viewer's attention on the shapes formed by the elements in a scene.

4) In the same way that patterns can be lost in color photography, textures can be too. When we see a color photo, our mind immediately begins to identify and label the elements in the scene, meaning that we often do not really "see" the photo, but instead see our mind's interpretation of it. Textures add a real depth to a photo, drawing the viewer into it. When we photograph in black and white, the mind no longer has that color information to work with, and so it pays more attention to elements such as texture, making them appear much more prominent.

5) Lighting is key to a good black and white photograph because it affects all of the above elements - shape, contrast, pattern and texture. When thinking about your lighting, consider how it will influence all of these factors, and choose a setup that enhances as many as possible. Side lighting often produces the most dramatic black and white photos. It picks out the edges of shapes and increases contrast by adding highlights, and the shadows it creates add interest to the scene as well as enhancing textures and patterns.

While Photographymad.com lists shape, form, pattern, texture and lighting as the basic and most important elements of black and white photography, color is added to this list as an essential component in all photography. Yes, color can play a role even in black and white photography. Red, for example, translates to very deep or dark areas in black and white. But there is another “design” element that I think is also important not only in black and white shots but in all shots- lines. Lines form the edges of shapes, but they also lead the eye in a photograph and serve as a powerful compositional tool.

All these concepts and ideas are great, but how do you actually put them into practice? The first step is to understand that the objects that we often just see as their object names aren’t just an object, but a shape, a form or a line. Recognizing that is the first step — and examining your earlier work and the work of other photographers you admire for line, shape and form is the second step. Then, to continue building on those foundational concepts, photographer Andrew S. Gibons recommends these tips to integrate as you shoot for stronger photography composition.

Pay attention to shape: You can’t exactly change the shapes you see. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t change the role the shape plays in a composition. For example, you can choose to photograph the broadside of the barn to create a rectangular shape, or you can choose to stand at a corner and create diagonal lines and switch from shape to form.

Perspective plays a huge role in translating a 3D world into the 2D format of a photo. From different angles, a 3D form will appear to take on different shapes. A coffee mug, when viewed from the side, is a cylinder, probably with a curved line as a handle. That same cup, from the top down, is a perfect circle. Adjusting your perspective, for many objects, will allow that object to take on more than one shape. Explore the object from every angle, then choose the shape that intrigues you the most, or perhaps the shape that creates the mood you are working for in the shot. Again, perspective will also allow you to choose between photographing a shape or a form — shoot straight on for a shape, or move until you can see multiple sides at once for a sense of depth.

The second way photographers can switch back and forth from shape to form is through light. If you want to emphasize shape, move the light, the object, or your feet until the light is either directly behind or directly in front of the object. That will create either a silhouette or a front-lit shape. If you’d rather give the object a sense of depth as a form, move instead so that the light comes in from any angle at the side of the image. The side-lighting will create shadows that help give our brains depth clues when looking at a two-dimensional image.

Learn to See Lines. Shapes and forms are strong compositional tools — but that doesn’t mean a single line has any less power. As you look for shapes, look for lines. Look for lines that could lead the eye towards the subject. Learn to spot straight lines that go into the distance and give the viewer a sense of the depth of the scene. What’s going to portray the feeling of the scene the most, a shape, or a line? The answer will help you determine whether to adjust the composition based on the line, or based on the shapes the line creates.

Don’t Stop at Single Shapes. Chances are, you’re not photographing a single shape on an empty background. While you should certainly consider the subject’s shape, don’t ignore the rest of the shapes in the image. Are there additional similar shapes that you could use to create a pattern? Are there opposite shapes that create more contrast? Looking at the shapes, lines and forms in the rest of the scene can help guide your decision on how to frame the shot and what objects to leave out of the image.

Don’t Ignore the Shape That’s Not There. Negative shapes often aren’t as common because they are harder to spot — but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them entirely. When the empty space between two objects creates a similar, instantly recognizable shape, the composition becomes not only stronger, but stands out more from other images of the same subject. As you are looking at the shapes the objects in the scene creates, look at what’s left in the background too.

Look for balance by asking how does the line, shape or form balance with the rest of the scene? Is it a small part of the image, or is it the entire image? Balance is all about what space you leave around that shape, or what space you don’t leave. Experiment by zooming in or switching to a wide angle. How does the feel of that shape change? A wide-angle shot of a simple geometric shape can create a sense of minimalism, while a close-up of the same shape could bring out both the shape and texture of that item.

Balance can help determine which aspects of the shape or form we’re most drawn to. To exaggerate the perfectly spaced shape in a piece of architecture, for example, try leaving space around the object that’s equivalent to the size of the shape itself. Build on the emotion of a curvy form by using the rule of thirds, or exaggerate a shape’s perfect symmetry by centering the composition.

Embrace Triangles. Every shape has a role in photography, but because triangles create a point that leads the eye, you must pay particular attention to them. The viewer’s eye will move towards wherever that triangle is pointing. Because of that movement, portrait experts often suggest posing a group of people into a triangular shape because the eye will move through the entire group.

For this week’s Flash of Red exercise take particular note of any one or more of these components, with the exception of color, (shape/form, line, texture, pattern, and light) and emphasize them in your photos. You can choose to go minimal, abstract, natural or anything in between. You can use your archives or shoot something new each day- whatever works for you. Be creative and have fun with some of the suggestions made above.

Flash of Red Week 4 runs from February 22 through February 28.
(There will be one final post of the 27th encouraging you to share a screen shot of your monthly calendar. You have the option to put that up on the 28th or on March 1st if you prefer.)

The tag is still FOR2021

And finally- a few words of inspiration:

Black and white is abstract; color is not. Looking at a black and white photograph, you are already looking at a strange world. Joel Sternfeld

I work in color sometimes, but I guess the images I most connect to, historically speaking, are in black and white. I see more in black and white. I like the abstraction of it. Mary Ellen Mark

Now off you go for your final week of Flash of Red February 2021!
Ann LeFevre
February 20th, 2021
@olivetreeann Thanks for administrating this, Ann. One of my favorite challenegs here!
February 20th, 2021
Thank you Ann -- this has kept me going again this February a little moan along the way but enjoyed every minute once I have organised myself for each week !
February 20th, 2021
@olivetreeann Woo hoo—Thanks for hosting such a fun and challenging month! To be clear, this last week is an anything goes (b/w) subject, correct?
February 20th, 2021
Thank you so much for hosting this month and for providing all of the excellent and helpful information.
February 20th, 2021
@olivetreeann thanks so much Ann - for hosting and all the helpful and interesting resources! I think this is THE most popular and eagerly awaited challenge in the 365 calendar! 🤩
February 20th, 2021
This has been a lot of fun and a learning experience! I have really enjoyed this. Thank you! I hope to see more black and white challenges.
February 20th, 2021
Thank you very much Ann. I've been enjoying this month of black and white.
February 20th, 2021
Thanks so much for all that information!
February 21st, 2021
Thanks Ann. Appreciate all the info you provide and thanks for hosting this.
February 21st, 2021
Thanks once again Ann for putting this together. I always enjoy partaking in this challenge.
February 21st, 2021
Thanks for hosting this Ann, it has really made me step out of my comfort zone. Shooting in black and white isn’t too bad after all 😀
February 21st, 2021
@aikiuser Subject of your choice- featuring shape/form, lines, texture, lighting or pattern; singular or any combo; but no specific subject matter- we're leaning toward the abstract here, but not completely.

February 21st, 2021
@lsquared @beryl @aikiuser @mzzhope @brigette @marlboromaam @mittens @narayani @shutterbug49 @salza @erinr

Thank you all so much for your encouragement and enthusiasm! It means the world to me to see so many people enjoying and rising to this challenge!
February 21st, 2021
@olivetreeann Gotcha! I appreciate the clarification for my little brain :-)
February 21st, 2021
A fantastic month Ann that i has inspired me to carry on on my black and white journey Thank you. I used to develop and print my own back in the day and it reminded me of seeing the image come through in the developing tray. Thoroughly enjoyable
February 21st, 2021
Thank you Ann, this has been a fun challenge so far, very much appreciate you hosting it
February 21st, 2021
@olivetreeann I'd like to thank you also for this managing this challenge. I very much enjoyed it and your resources and information are so helpful, especially this last one concentrating on black and white. You really zoned in how "looking" at and for B&W images launches you into this creative genre.
February 21st, 2021
@aikiuser You're welcome! (o;
@moonbi @swchappell @theredcamera

Thank Jason, Sw, and Ellen. I am so glad you have not only enjoyed this challenge but that it has impacted your photography too. It really means so much to me!
February 22nd, 2021
I'm gong to admit that I was a bit dismayed when the details of this years FoR first came out. I thought, hell those weekly themes just don't suit me at all!
In fact I have LOVED it so far, it has been just wonderful.
Challenges definitely impact on our photography as we stretch beyond ourselves.
OK now one more week of stretching and thinking in new ways!
February 22nd, 2021
Thanks for your time to manage these weekly themes. I took the cue for portraits and if I understood correctly shapes, texture, patterns for this week.
February 22nd, 2021
Thank you Ann, as ever enjoyed the month
February 22nd, 2021
@koalagardens Thank you Katrina! For once I am glad I did not live up to someone's expectations! (smile)

@elza Yes Leli- you can choose one, all or alternate- whatever way you'd like. Lighting is also on the list.

@30pics4jackiesdiamond Thanks Jackie! I'm glad you did and thanks for joining in!
February 24th, 2021
@olivetreeann Thank you Ann for this great information page for the last week of FOR.

How do you take a screenshot?
I'm using the snipping tool to take a screenshot and I have no room to add text,
Flash of Red 2021, any suggestions?
February 25th, 2021
@radiogirl Here you go Kathy- I'm not 100% tech savvy but you should be able to figure this out in the context of your machine. I hope!
February 25th, 2021
@olivetreeann Thank you 😊
Write a Reply
Sign up for a free account or Sign in to post a comment.