Forget the colours

Sometimes an image doesn’t work in colour, so it’s time to see in black and white. Colours can detract from the scene so we use black and white as a compositional element to bring interest to the image.

Note: the use of the term black and white as opposed to monochrome is intentional. Monochrome means one colour, it could be any colour, so we could have a white and red or red and black image.


Not a bad picture, but it needs some punch. Yosemite Valley – 2018


Black and white strips an image to its bare elements, deepening the shadows and sky add drama.


Just another Massai landscape. Massai Mara – 2010


Stripping the colour adds dimension and drama to the scene.


Going greyscale can add to a sense of nostalgia. Prairie Dog Central Railway – Winnipeg Manitoba 2012.

Go beyond grey scale to real black and white


This image has no grey tones, even though it looks like it does.

This was shot on 8×10 orthographic film which is incapable of recording anything but pure black and pure white. The film is so fine grained that greys appear as an illusion. ISO 6, Kodalith Orthographic. London Ontario – 1973.


This image is pure black and white, commonly called a lithograph. It was captured with a digital camera, there was very little colour in the winter scene with flat light. Lac la Biche, Alberta 2007.

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