BLACK AND WHITE FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY
Black and white photography can take a viewer’s breath away. By stripping away colour, we become so much more aware of elements of that images such as texture, shape, light, and subtle graduations of tone in a photograph. In doing so, it has the power to tell a story. There is beauty in black and white food photography makes us see food in a different light, whilst adding a uniqueness and timelessness to an image.
With the change of black and white photography over time, we wanted to share some insight into why black and white photography can be so beneficial in shooting food. Angela Nicholson shared with us her views on how black and white photography has changed through time. She gives her top tips and tricks to shoot that black and white food photograph, and how it has a power to tell a story.
Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year has seen an array of black and white photography submitted throughout our range of categories. From Angela’s insight, we look back at some of our entrants work across the years to see how black and white has been used to photograph food in varying genres. From food portrait shots, to portraits of people and different landscape scenes. We also look at how its has been used as a powerful form of photography in storytelling, as well as for creative unique portrayal of food.
DISCOVER BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY
We spoke to Angela Nicholson, Co-Founder & Director at Camera Jabber, Founder of SheClicks, and asked for some insight into the importance of Black and White photography. Angela is one of Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year’s esteemed judges.
The Change in Black & White Photography Over Time
How has the use of black and white changed in photography, and food photography in particular?
‘I think the main thing is that black and white photography has become a lot more accessible than it used to be. Getting good results from a roll of black and white film requires a darkroom where you can perfect your prints through careful paper selection and artful dodging and burning. Although many enthusiast photographers were able to set-up a darkroom in their bathroom or spare room, digital technology makes creating your vision in monochrome much easier, there are no chemicals to mix, you don't need to blackout the room and there's isn't a queue of family members outside the door asking when you're going to finish.’
Black & White Photography Vs Colour
What do you especially like about shooting in black and white, and why would you recommend its use over colour?
‘I love that monochrome photography reduces a scene to a collection of tones and puts the emphasis on the contrast and texture of the subject. Without the distraction of colour, B&W photography can also help convey the message or story behind an image.’
Tips & Tricks for Shooting in Black & White
How could photographers successfully shoot black & white if they are so used to shooting in colour?
‘Generally, it's best to decide whether you're going to create a B&W or colour image at the shooting stage because removing the colour means that objects of the same brightness will have a similar tone and you may want to change the composition accordingly.
I recommend switching your camera to its black and white mode so that you can see roughly what you are going to get. If you shoot raw files your camera will still capture the full-colour information so you can make a bespoke conversion and adjust the brightness of differently coloured areas on your computer.’
BLACK AND WHITE FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY INSPIRATION
Throughout the years, many entries to Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year have been submitted in black and white. Looking back at some of our amazing finalist’s and commended entrants work, we discover how the use of black and white features across many categories and genres of food photography. From Angela’s insight, we look at how black and white has been used in these entries and share some inspiration of how powerful black and white photography can be across an array food photography.
Black and White Produce Photography
As Angela suggests, shooting in black and white emphasises the ‘texture and contrast of the subject.’ Food produce, whether the cream of the crop, or a portrait of a product, lends photography an array of shape and texture to emphasise.
Here, Nando Esteva with his ‘black tomato’, shows us how black and white photography can add depth and texture to something as simple as a singular product. Even though we are aware that it is a tomato, the depth of the black and removal of its associated colour draws our attention to the beautiful shape of the product alone.
Using such depth of black singles out the product and draws our attention to the textures and shapes of the product, perhaps more than if it were shot in colour. This shot of ‘goth ice’ by Ryan Ball highlights the textures that we would not necessarily be so obvious in colour. The cone, usually the last part of an ice cream you are drawn to, comes to life here. The use of black, over colour, can also make the viewer engage with the photograph and want to learn more, as we usually associate such produce with bright vibrancy.
In creating a photograph, black and white and colour do not have to be used as an either or. Here, Caroline Trotter, in her shot ‘Apple Pie Making,’ uses both. We are firstly drawn to the coloured apples, which tells us what the image is about. We then delve further into the photograph, where the black and white again emphasises the textures and shapes and tells a story behind the produce itself.
Portraits in Black and White
Portrait photography can be strong and dynamic. It can tell us a story about an image in photographing people, using black and white emphasises the dramatic tones of an image.
Mark Bentley, Black + White Photography, speaks about how one of the key characteristics of black and white is its power to tell a story, where portraits work so well in monochrome as they become more resonant when the distraction of colour is removed. Read more in our Black & White blog.
Portraits in black and white reveal beauty that might not be seen in colour. They reveal characters and stories behind them. This image by Fernando Lazaro for example, we see a character that might be viewed differently in colour. The dramatic tones and lighting draw us into that character.
This has been achieved with less dramatic tones too. Here, Victor Pugatschew in photographing in black and white almost removes our attention away from the delicious food that is grapes. We know the image is about food, but our eyes are taken to the human element. Black and white gives a dramatic emphasis on the man’s body. This makes us want to read a description behind an image.
Landscapes in Black and White
Food photography encompasses many genres of photography in addition to product and produce shots. Food can be seen to be photographed in many categories, from Food in the Field, to Bring Home the Harvest, from beautiful places in wine photography to the Politics of Food. Black and white photography is used over colour in such categories too.
In this image ‘Religious Vines,’ Mark Unsworth creates an eery feel to this landscape. Using black and white gives us an idea of the season that the image is set in. It also emphasises the lack of produce on the vines, again setting the scene. It also makes the viewer look at the vines in more detail than they would perhaps if it were in colour, emphasising their texture and shape. In drawing us into the scene, we look deeper at the overall landscape and learn more the more we see.
Shooting in black and white can really emphasise the lighting of scenes, again drawing the viewers attention into the focus of the landscape. In addition to giving us an idea of season, black and white can also portray a sense of day and night. Jonas Borg, in his photograph ‘Fish and Chips,’ uses the lack of colour and the strong lighting to draw the viewers gaze from the street food landscape into the food truck. Even though the image is in black and white, you can feel the warmth of the food; it is almost nostalgic.
Storytelling with Black and White Photography
As Angela describes - ‘Without the distraction of colour, B&W photography can also help convey the message or story behind an image.’ The use of black and white and the removal of colour, draws our eye into what is happening within a photograph.
In is shot ‘Albanian Grandmothers,’ Manuel Krug, in removing colour, draws us into the humour of the faces of these women. It makes us want to learn more about what is happening in the image and their story, rather than our attention being on the Food in Action.
Creative Black and White Photography
Photographs of food can be creative and unique and engage us in different ways. In this ‘Sepia Fish’ shot, Karin Klammer does this by emphasising the natural monochrome colour of the fish and playing it with simple lines to set the context and movement of the photograph. In doing so there is a depth, and almost 3D feel, to this image.
We hope that we have inspired you with our insight into black and white photography.
To learn more tips and tricks, or to gain useful insight into the competition please visit our blogs section to find out more.
Get further inspiration from the breath-taking photos of our previous winners and immerse yourself in our finalists' gallery.
Want to try your hand at food photography and enter our competition? Register your interest today!
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- Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year changed my life January 2, 2024
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