27 Images That Show the Diversity and Power of Black and White Portraiture

27 Images That Show the Diversity and Power of Black and White Portraiture

27 Images That Show the Diversity and Power of Black and White Portraiture

Black and white portraiture is not simply the decision to desaturate the color from an image, it is a decision to remove color to create something powerful and artistic. Monochrome portraitists know there is deep emotional consideration when removing color.

Color can be distracting in some situations. Color can be wrong in some situations.

Think about the badly mixed colors in the wardrobe, or distracting dead grass in the background. What if we didn’t have to deal with that at all, only with the graphic possibilities that the elimination of color gives us.

Shooting good black and white means PLANNING on the image being monochrome. Knowing how colors will reproduce in a black and white image is extremely important. An orange shirt and blue shorts may pop in color, but in black and white the luminances can be so close that both turn a dull gray and there is no differentiation between them.

Black and white has a sort of timeless beauty to it, and the interest in that timelessness has not been diminished by the digital camera (which shoots in color by default). A black and white image can be haunting, engaging, beautiful, emotionally driven, and captivating.

Here are some portraits from my “Mastering the Black and White Portrait Class”. 

The photographers learned a ton of techniques and approaches to shooting black and white, with the strength of deliberateness, and it made them better photographers in general.

“MASTERING THE BLACK AND WHITE PORTRAIT” is currently enrolling for a May 6, 2017 start. If you are interested in what the class covers, hit the link and check it out.

Take control of your black and white portraits with this 8 Week Workshop.



If you are interested in developing professional-level skills for your photography, please check out this online, year long workshop. Designed for people who have day jobs, but want to improve their photography and learn how to work like a professional.

Whether you want to be a full time photographer or just pick up some gigs along the way, this class will take you through the all the stuff that is not taught in traditional photography classes. Learn more about this unique class.

Learn More
Behind the Image: John Mcallister

Behind the Image: John Mcallister

This is a new feature on Lighting Essentials. We take a look at images and how they were made.

We will be doing these posts as often as possible, and if you follow along you will get a heavy dose of instruction in lighting, composition, and the finesse of solving problems in the image making process.

John McAllister is a product, people, and commercial photographer in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, UK.

Here he is using a unique way to light these two products and is happy to share them with you here.

Kraken image:

John used several different lights to create this shot, but his unique use of a snoot behind carefully cut holes is exceptional. These two holes are ‘aimed’ at parts of the image to create a sharp edged shadow on the glass and a heightened contrast that makes the color pop.

Studying the lighting diagram and the BTS shot, we can see John’s meticulous attention to detail and manipulation of the reflective areas of the subject.

Ciroc image:

You can see the work of John’s lighting taking shape in how the bottle is presented. With long, beautiful speculars on each side of the bottle and the small circle of light around the label, the bottle is shown as a unique product. Adding a bit of light on the bottom of the bottle and the glass, the bottom hole in John’s cuki makes a very subtle change to the way the label is presented.

Study this incredible lighting scheme. Note the way John angles the strip box behind the scrim on the right side of the shot. This gives the specular a subtle gradation that adds dimension and snap.

(I hope you enjoy this new feature on Lighting Essentials.

My CreativeLIVE Table Top Class to be rebroadcast!

My CreativeLIVE Table Top Class to be rebroadcast!

What does this mean to you?

It means you can watch it free, no charge, toll exempt, dinero not necessary!

Consider it a Holiday Gift from the great folks at CreativeLIVE and your host here at LE.

From the CL class page:

Basic Product Photography.

Don Giannatti returns for a special workshop on tabletop product photography. Don starts with an introduction to tabletop lighting – tools, scrims, DIY gear – and how to organize your shoot around a tabletop to bring everyone up to speed. Then Don will teach you the basic concepts of Tabletop Product Photography. Finally Don will ramp up to more advanced topics adding extras such as kicker lights, snoots, and grids that can bring your work up a notch.
Here’s the link. And make sure you get the handouts… they are pretty cool. 🙂
Two Workshops in November: Portrait and Still Life

Two Workshops in November: Portrait and Still Life

For the last time this year, I am running this very popular class on Black and White Portraiture. Lots of information on shooting people and converting the images to monochrome (black and white, sepia, toned etc…).

Please check out the page for a lot more information.

If you love still life photography as much as I do, you may want to check out this 8 Week Still Life Class. It is one of the most popular I offer and it will be the last time I do this in 2016. We take a deep dive into the structure, techniques, and styles of still life photography.

Please see this page for more information.

Attention to the Details

Attention to the Details

Paying attention to the tiniest of details is one of the jobs of a commercial photographer. And rarely do details matter more than when shooting chocolate. Chocolate dust, scratches, fingerprints, and the chalky white of damaged edges can draw the eye to the problems for a variety of reasons.

A light colored artifact on a dark field will always draw the eye, And we pick up small imperfections without even really noticing them.

One of my project 52 students turned in this chocolate shot for a recent assignment. Rick Savage did a pretty good job executing a very good concept, but the details of the chocolate were left to ‘a natural state’. And a natural state is not what we want to see when we are advertising expensive candy.

The shot on the left is Rick’s first version, and on the right his repaired version. Yes, Photoshop is an important tool because even if you shoot it the best way you can in camera, tiny details may need to be repaired in post.

What We Can Learn from Portraits

What We Learn From Making Portraits

Portraiture Can Enhance All of Our Photography

Want to increase your photography chops? Try portraiture.

When we are working with another person, and trying to make a great portrait of them, we have many challenges that confront the photographic process.

The one that is largest, and seems to be one of the more difficult challenges is time. With a landscape or food or still life, we can take as long as we need in most instances. But with a portrait, time is of the essence. A bored subject can look tired or uninterested in front of the camera.

Add to that the challenge that so many of us put on ourselves of entertaining our subjects while they wait and we work to fix this stand or that umbrella… the stress can add up to an unfulfilling session.

Learning to work within this time constraint can make us better all around photographers, and lessen the need for vast quantities of Tequila and Rum at the end of a long day.

The cover image above is by Frederic Reblewski. Using a strong light behind the subject, his goal was a moody portrait of a young man in conflict. The light and shadow show a classical scenario that plays out well in this dramatic portrait. Close cropping of the image and the use of negative space help the mood along as well.

In this image, photographer Diana Lundin had a very short window to keep the sun on her subject. Notice the angle of the shadow that indicates the sun is already low in the sky, and to maintain the even light on the subject she had to work quickly. Using the graphical element of the lifeguard tower set the subject off, and provided another element of interest in the image,

With a large scrim and a speedlight, photographer Marjorie Decker was able to position her subject and create a flattering light quickly. This kept the subject more relaxed while Decker was able to finesse the pose. Large, soft light sources can be much more forgiving than small, direct ones.

Portrait photography helps you work on your composition as well. Having a subject that can move allows you to play with placement of the background elements. Trying several compositions quickly is much easier – just have your subject move a little to the left or right to see what happens,

Photographer Iryna Ishchenko moved her model into and out of the frame to find the point where the subject worked best in relationship to the background. Keeping the flow of the lines of the body, while making the subject nearly anonymous gives the portrait a sense of mystery and elegance.

This dramatic portrait was lit with only a window light. Photographer Linda Luu Kiefl positioned her subject to give extra dark space around him. This helps the feeling of isolation that is enhanced by the gentleman’s somber expression. Including a small part of the window shade in the photograph helps give it context and adds a bit of whimsy to the image.

Working with negative space on a plain background can be very challenging. Working the subject into and out of the light can help a photographer see composition happening right before their eyes. Working with the subject and space can be quite illuminating. Heh. Photographer Annely Silferwax worked with her subject looking off camera for added drama.

Portraits can encompass a wide variety of emotion. Photographers can use compositional elements to enhance feelings of isolation, elation, distress, sadness and joy.

Add to this the elegance of light, and the portrait photographer can work through all the challenges of photography in this one genre.

Texture, dimension, shape, color, and gesture are all within the purview of the portrait. Using light wisely and with intention helps set the mood for the portrait.

Adding texture and whimsy to the portrait, photographer Richard McDonald kept the light strong behind the subject and flattened it on the front side to present this portrait. Photographer and subject simply began playing with this interesting piece of cloth until something striking happened before the lens. The graphical element of the image is enhanced by the anonymous subject.

With the light fading fast, photographer Leonardo Ferri moved his subject between two pillars in the courtyqrd they were shooting in and pushed his ISO to capture the delicate ambient light from outside. The subjects haunting expression fit the mood of the light, and the soft texture of the background give the image a striking appeal. It has a timeless, tranquil quality.

These images are pulled from the student work from the 8 Week Portrait Workshop. The inspiration for this assignment was the work of Herb Ritts, an incredible photographer who left us far too young.