Experimenting with black and white portraits

Experimenting with black and white portraits

I’ve been interested in photography ever since I was given a Kodak Instamatic at about the same age as my son is now.  I’ve been a prolific snapper ever since, and digital photography has been a revelation, seeing exactly what you’ve taken immediately, my son will never know what it’s like to wait weeks in the hope that you hadn’t chopped people’s heads off or not got everything in focus. I’ve had various digital cameras over the years and treated myself to a Canon 70D a couple of years ago.  But it was firmly set on Auto until I joined as local adult education course for Beginners DSLR photography in September 2016.  Since then I’ve made new friends, visited new places and began to understand what all the buttons do on my camera!  As part of my course I’ve spent a few sessions experimenting with black and white portraits over the last two years, and with lighting too.

Experimenting with black and white portraits

I’d never taken a photo directly in black and white before I started the course, I’d always converted from colour in Picmonkey afterwards.  I’ve learned that not everything works in black and white and you really do need to think about light, light, light! But I’ve had fun along the way.

My heart is definitely in landscape and nature shots, so whenever we’ve had to take portraits for our homework projects I’ve enlisted my son to give me some inspiration.

These shots were taken in January 2016, on shutter priority ranging from 1/15 to 1/60, with ISO 400.  All were taken on my 18-55mm lens as at the time, it was all I had.

Looking back I can see all the issues with lighting in most of these shots, not enough, too much, not so great composition.  But for my first time, they were ok, and I was happy at the time.

Roll on a year and we’d been asked to provide some works using JM Cameron or Jane Bown for inspiration.  Deciding that I really wasn’t sure I could make anything look anything like JM Cameron‘s work, I opted for Jane Bown.  My model was less than impressed that I needed his help at the weekend.  This time around I’m using a 50mm fixed lens, and working on a manual setting so I could play around with both my shutter and aperture settings.

These shots were taken on 1/60 F2.8 ISO 400 They aren’t perfect and I’m looking forward to some critique this morning in class.  But I’m happy, I’m experimenting with black and white portraits and getting to know my camera better each and every time I try.


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