Black and White Photo Challenge

If you find it hard to get motivated to go out and be a photographer, set yourself a challenge. I promise it'll make you grow and once you get out there, you'll love it.

But more importantly, follow up on it because a challenge without action is only an idea.

I love shooting colour, but am seeing a lot of my friends doing one-a-day Black and White challenges, so I set myself an afternoon one to share with you.

When setting yourself a photo challenge, stick to the brief

It would be easy to shoot a whole bunch of ‘spray and pray’ images, take them home and see if any work as black and whites when they’re in Lightroom or whatever program you use.

That’s not a challenge, that’s a forlorn hope and cop-out because anyone can remove colour from a photo after the event.

To make monochrome images that work you have to remove the colour in your head before you shoot it. To grow the creative muscle it has to be exercised and that means hard work.

It means truly looking around at the light qualities, searching for patterns and composition that’ll make the best black and white photos.

A Photo is a moment in time - with the sensory experience removed

The excitement that inspired you to shoot in the first place was partially influenced by sounds, smells, the happy feeling of sun on your skin or a chilly nip in the air.

When we shoot in black and white, we deprive it of colour too so composition; light, shape and form have to step up and compensate. That’s why textures often work so well.

For an intentional black and white image to work, it has to be carefully considered before the shutter is pressed. It has to be pre-visualised and questions asked. You have to put your 7 Building Blocks of Photography hard to work.

  • How it would look without colour? Close your eyes and imagine it.
  • Low contrast colour images often work because the varying hues act as separators between the different aspects of a composition. If the colour is removed, will there be enough separation, or will the grey tones be too similar?
  • Does the quality of light have the strength of impact to make this work? (By strength I mean is enjoyable to look at not how bright it is).

It takes effort and concentration for most photographers.

Exercising an un-used muscle always does and the creative one is no different.

I said in the video I found it really tough and I wasn’t joking. It’s easy to imagine a twelve minute video took twelve minutes to shoot. It took me over two hours to find three images I was content enough to share.

This is often the case when shooting somewhere you know intimately because it’s not new and inspiring.

Photographers come from all over the UK and beyond to shoot at Mudeford Quay with me and they all say how brilliant it is. But for me it’s everyday. I’ve been going there since I was about five years old so it’s become ordinary.

The Muses were upon me

Simon Taplin and I were commissioned to shoot photos of a Master Calligrapher in Vietnam a couple of years ago. I was on fire with the possibilities and the creative muses were down on me like a ton of bricks. Boy did I love it!

But having lived and shot in Asia for seventeen years, Simon had seen it all before. For him it wasn’t that exciting so seeing how fired up I was, he left me to get on with. (The situation was reversed on other occiasions).

So if you want to make a mini photo challenge for yourself and give your creative muscle a real workout, do it somewhere you know like the back of your hand and are kinda bored of photographing.

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