Experiments in black and white

After the interesting comments in the Not in black and white entry, and because there was nothing much to do today except wait for the beef pata and tripe to simmer until tender so I could cook kare-kare for dinner, I decided to do some experiments in black and white photography. What better way to pass the time, right? Everyone else was busy. Sam was doing an Arts project (the kitchen was a kaleidoscope of modeling clay and plaster of paris by the time Speedy drove her back to the dorm), Alex was getting ready to attend a despedida party (her classmate is migrating to Canada with her family) and Speedy was busy watching Kris Aquino’s tearful recount on television of her mother’s last days before she finally succumbed to colon cancer early on Saturday morning. I had already submitted my food column for Wednesday and I wasn’t in the mood to do any more work on a Sunday. So, I experimented.

The experiment consisted of two segments. First, I reviewed the color photos in my hard drive and converted some of them into black and white using Adobe Photoshop. Then, I studied the results.

casaveneracion.com clouds-sunlight2

The photo above was taken at the Boso Boso Resort and Convention Center in 2004 with my old Olympus Stylus Mju 410. When I chose it for black and white conversion, I was ninety-nine percent sure it would be a success because the original appeared to be almost black and white although taken in full color. You can view the full color original here.

casaveneracion.com view-deck

Like the first photo, I was just as certain that his second one, taken at the Manila Bay, would take to black and white conversion well too (compare with the original).

casaveneracion.com hanging-bridge

This third photo was a little more problematic. I knew that the hanging bridge (view the original) would look good as the focal point in a black and white photo but would it stand out against the background? Well, I had to photoshop it. Using the selective color tool, I darkened all the black hues to make the white bridge pop out.

casaveneracion.com kalachuchi

I had little problem turning the discarded concubine photo into black and white since the original already had a lot of gray in it.

After the first segment of my experiment, I concluded that some looked good in black and white but others didn’t. I’m not particularly happy with the black and white conversion of the hanging bridge photo. Why? As far as I can tell, a dramatic black and white photo must have one or more of the following: (1) bold lines; (2) bold patterns; (3) bold textures and (4) deep contrasting lights and shadows. I took my Canon G10, set it in black and white mode, and set out to apply what I had learned. The second segment of the experiment consisted of taking photos of things around the house that contained bold lines, patterns or textures. For best results, I took photos from angles where the deep shadows showed best.


  1. says

    Great visuals! The first and second photos (the one with clouds and Manila Bay) are very successfully rendered in black and white. But, I think the photo with the hanging bridge and the discarded concubine are better left untouched in their original color version. It might just be me, pero parang merong element na nawala sa emotions evoked nung naging black and white ang 2 photos na ito…

    I’ll get back to your other photos later- thanks again, Connie!

  2. Cynthia says

    I’m a huge fan of black and white photography. It’s dramatic, particularly if there are repeating patterns or an interplay of light and shadow. It also captures facial expressions that a color photo may not convey as effectively. Photos by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Eugene Atget truly speak to me.

    I liked your photo of the pier on Manila Bay and of the railing – nice patterns and contrast between light and dark.

  3. says

    I realize this comment may not have anything to do with black and white photography but I’d just like to say, I love those coffee cups! They look so marvelous! Okay, end of irrelevant comment now. :P

  4. carmen factora says

    I agree, Connie, not only protraits, but meaningful moments, in black and white, speak volumes.
    Amazing what tools can do. The bridge and ironwork pictures sure pop out. Definitely have to refer my daughter to this site. She’ll want those tools for Christmas.