Photographer Michael Thompson

I love color photography and because of this I often don’t give black and white photography much credit. Alternatively, you might say I give it too much credit, I hold it to such a high standard that cannot reasonably be lived up to. I feel that black and white editing is over used and is often done as more of an after thought than done purposefully.

I believe black and white photography should support the story of an image when color distracts from this purpose. Black and white photos should focus heavily on the lighting of scene and subject. A shoot should be planned with black and white in mind. The photos shouldn’t just be high contrast images that become literally be black and white but rather be filled with beautiful shades of grey.

My favorite example of successful black and white images are photographer Michael Thompson’s editorial images of Kate Beckinsdale. View them here on one of my Pinterest boards. Michael Thompson often shoots portraits in black and white but this series in particular spoke to what I love about the use of lighting in black and white photography.

These photos embody what I believe black and white photography should be. They purposefully use lighting and shades of grey to tell you about these moments in time. The black and white draws your attention to the lighting and sets a mood. These images perfectly evoke a mood and a story that could not be achieved in color. They portray the private moments of a woman awakening in the morning sunlight, moments spent in deep thought. In particular I love the image where she holds her hand up to shade her face from the sun, appearing to search out into the day to see what it might hold. The beautiful catch lights in her eyes and natural shape of the shadow on her face highlighting it are beautiful. The stripes of her shirt add dimension and subtly suggest lighting that is actually just the stripes.

My challenge to myself is to try to create portraits that do this just as well as Michael Thompson’s do. To create a series of portraits of one person or of different individuals that use lighting and shades of grey to tell their story.