Black and white vision

I’ve been shooting black and whites for around three years but when I started I had no idea how difficult it would be to develop black and white vision.


It would be easier if I was shooting digital, there would be far fewer mistakes and disappointments but much less fun along the way.

Shooting in black and white isn’t just a matter of loading a different film in the camera – it requires a whole new approach. You have to look at colour differently.  Your prominent subject can melt into the background or insignificant details (like the fly in the shot below) can take centre stage.

A few weeks ago I shot a gorse bush with flaming yellow flowers and rich green foliage. Out on the hill it was spectacular but fresh from the developing tank the result was an almost uniform grey.

Different colours of a similar tone can turn out muddy and indistinct in black and white. But different tones of the same colour, which look much of a muchness in a field, can make dramatic black and white subjects.

You have to remember to filter out the colour information and look at the tone – keep practising, compare the results with expectation and it starts to make sense. You can use a digital camera to preview your results – I tend not to do that as I suspect it would make me lazy but I sometimes take a snap in colour and use it to compare when the film is developed.

It’s still a learning process but I had an idea that when I took a some shots of bracken leaves unfurling in a grassy field, that it would make a decent shot. I wish I could show you the colour version but you just had to be there.


I’m learning not to underestimate weeds. To appreciate the subtle differences in shades of green.

I’m shooting less landscapes and focus more on the details. These days I usually have a rough idea of how things will turn out but there are still surprises and plenty of fun along the way.



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