8 minute read
Six Stunning Subjects That Can Help You Master Monochrome
There are loads of scenes and subjects that look amazing with a black & white approach – and your FUJIFILM X Series camera can help you make the most of them
Black & white – or monochrome – photography is an appealing style to work in, and images can be given an instant lift in drama and impact with the color removed, but it can take time and commitment to master. Luckily, your X Series camera can help in a variety of ways.
Black & white is both a photographic technique and a subject in its own right, and the more you work in this style, the quicker you’ll learn to ‘see’ in order to make great monochrome pictures. Start by switching to MONOCHROME or ACROS Film Simulation modes and using the electronic viewfinder or LCD screen to literally see what works and what doesn’t.
Switching Film Simulation modes is done in the IMAGE QUALITY SETTING menu – just choose FILM SIMULATION and cycle through the options. But remember you can also set a shortcut, for quick access – it’s like being able to build your own camera!
Great monochrome landscapes aren’t simply a case of showing up and switching the color off. If anything, you need to work harder when the color is removed. A clear blue sky, for example, often won’t translate well to monochrome as it can look too blank, so try to time your photographs for when there’s some cloud detail to add interest. Similarly, foregrounds work well when they have lots of texture, like grass, rocks or pebbles on a beach. Strong lead-in lines – details in the scene that draw the eye towards the subject or scenery in the distance – also combine well with black & white landscapes, especially if they contrast with the rest of the scene. In black & white, they may stand out even more clearly than in color!
Want to take things further? Try framing a black & white landscape with a strong neutral density (ND) filter. This is a filter you attach to your lens to cut out a proportion of the light, and can help you create a long exposure where the shutter speed can be extended to many seconds or even minutes. If you try it on a windy day, or near moving water, such as at the coast or by a river, you’ll get motion blur, which simplifies an image and works perfectly with the monochrome look.
In all cases, be sure to try different Film Simulation options for monochrome. Experiment with them to see how each one affects the scene, especially if you use the red (R), yellow (Ye), and green (G) filter options for ACROS and MONOCHROME. For instance, choosing ACROS+R or MONOCHROME+R will darken the sky and add contrast.
When you get back down to earth, you’ll find telephoto focal lengths – like the ‘long’ end of your zoom lens – are very useful for picking out details on buildings. Both modern and historical buildings are great for this, so look for interesting moldings, patterns, and features, like windows, clock faces, or arches.
Just as with landscapes, try combining your monochrome architectural images with a long exposure. If you can, pick a day when there’s partial cloud cover, and set your camera on a tripod to lock its position during the long exposure. In an exposure like this, the clouds will blur as they pass the buildings in your scene, making them stand out even more strongly.
Black & white imagery can be the perfect way to frame all the outpouring of emotion at weddings, from a proud mother’s tearful first look at her daughter in a wedding dress to the joyous best man speech. Why is this? Maybe it’s down to the documentary feel that black & white images have. With the color removed, pictures take on a sense of truth and simplicity that magnifies the emotion within them.
But before you start to photograph the guests, keep an eye out for details – the dress, shoes, table decorations – basically everything many other people will forget to photograph!
Next, concentrate on the situations where people are showing emotions: the ceremony, the bride and groom meeting friends and family for the first time afterward and, of course, the speeches. There’s black & white treasure to be found, so be sure to seek it out!
To add to the documentary style when photographing weddings, try sticking to just one or two focal lengths. A great way to do this is using prime lenses – models that are limited to just one focal length. Keeping within this framing restriction will make your photos pleasingly consistent and also make you work a little harder with your compositions! Try an XF23mmF2 R WR or XF35mmF2 R WR, and you’ll find that these lenses’ wide maximum apertures also allow you to photograph with more freedom in low light. This means you don’t have to use flash and can keep everything totally natural – a perfect fit for black & white images.
Black & white photography instantly lends a timeless feel to your street subjects, so try working like this when you’re out looking for those candid documentary-style pictures.
If you have a model with a tilting rear screen, use this to frame the scene from chest or waist level. People will think you’re looking at a menu rather than making pictures, and this will make their behavior and expressions more natural.
Photo © Andris Dzeguze
Photo © Andris Dzeguze
The electronic shutter mode on X Series cameras enables you to photograph in near silence, too, and you can find the option to switch this on in the SHOOTING MENU. Pick your subjects carefully and if someone objects to you making an image, don’t argue. Just move on. For the less confident, look for street details such as road signs, reflections, and street furniture.
Like other subjects, scenes with high contrast lend themselves brilliantly to monochrome street pictures. Try to find patches of light in the shadows and release the shutter as a subject moves through them or is silhouetted by the light. Because the EVF or LCD screen of your X Series camera shows exactly how the picture will turn out, you can be confident of exposing these high contrast issues perfectly.
You can give images of friends and family a classic, timeless look by photographing them in black & white. To get the best results make sure clothing matches the mood – for instance plain clothes without logos will prevent the images from dating. If you’re feeling more creative, try bold lighting like the picture you see here, and frame your subject within patterns, pools of light, or in shade. And don’t limit black & white to just people – our canine and feline friends look great in monochrome, too!
Remember your black & white Film Simulation modes with portraits and, using the live preview, cycle through the options to see what they can add. The MONOCHROME and ACROS +Ye, R, and G settings, where some of the original colors are filtered, will let certain hues pop out, make skin tones smoother, or pick out features like freckles. It all adds up to greater impact.
Macro and close-ups
Great mono close-ups are all about lighting and texture. Generally speaking, softer light works on more curvaceous subjects, while harsher light is better for harder-edged ones. But there are always exceptions.
If you’re photographing flowers, the black & white Film Simulation modes are well worth experimenting with here, as each mode will reveal different hues in the petals. For instance, photograph a red flower against green grass in the ACROS+R or +G modes and you’ll see they look completely different!
Study your subject and pick out shapes that make for interesting compositions, while altering its position and the quality of the light to find what looks best to you. Look for naturally occurring patterns and don’t be afraid to make the most of the high-resolution X-Trans sensor in the latest X Series models – you can crop in on images during post-production or in the camera’s playback menu for even more impact.