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.

Arc of Beauty: Side to Back Lighting

Arc of Beauty: Side to Back Lighting

Have You Considered the “Arc of Beauty” in your lighting?

(Image by Tracy Sutherland)

We are going to take a high-level view of lighting today and discuss what I call the “Arc of Beauty“. And while no lighting scheme is going to be directly discussed, what we are to think about is a general tone of the light and what it does.

The “Arc of Beauty

The Arc is backlight from side to full back. This lighting is one that I think of every time I get ready to do a still life, food, tabletop, or product shoot. It is a go-to lighting at the highest level.

What that means is I haven’t thought about whether it will be a softbox, or an umbrella, or a grid spot… I just want to get the benefits of back / side-back lighting established first.

And I do this usually with a boom or grid-held light instrument that allows me clean vision below it while keeping the light itself above and or behind the subject. While it can be done with a stand, the boom allows me to get the stand out of the picture from behind and not have to limit my angle in order to not see it.

Full on side light is also part of the arc of beauty. And remember, top down lighting is also side lighting since it is oblique to the camera.

Full Side Light is also within the Arc of Beauty and can provide some stunning textural and dimensional presentation.
The arc also extends vertically from lower than the subject to directly over top (also a ‘side light’ in angle from the camera.

From a full on back light oblique to the camera to top down light from above, the arc is also a vertical tool that can help with dimension, texture, color definition and more.

Why do I start here?

Because the tendency of front lighting is to make things flat. Dimension falls away, shadows fall away, and the overall texture is diminished as well.

Here are two shots to show you how it works from a small, intimate image to a large scene.

The pear and grape still life was shot on an 8 x 10 Deardorff and 14″ lens with Ektachrome 64 Transparency film. Light is from camera right and is a 24x36″ softbox shot through a 48x48″ scrim. The light is above the set.

Shot on Canon 6D / 24-105 MM at 30 MM. The back light gives texture to the sand, the wall and the sidewalk. It also creates a much more interesting set of shadows and shapes. Dimension and texture.

Bob Knill used a grid spot from the back.
Billy Walker chose side light to lift the details off of this head of lettuce.
Lisa Narduzzi chose a large soft light to bring out the texture and shape of her farm fresh beets.
Maciel Blaszczuk used a window light directly behind the bowl of onions for this iPhone shot.
James Kern uses light from the back right side to sculpt the texture and dimension of the assorted objects.
Soh Fong chose a diffused side light for her bananas in a corner of a small box.

Are there exceptions?

Absolutely. Shiny objects, liquid, situations where you WANT a flatter, less textural light. Of course there are exceptions and there are also some very talented photographers out there who choose front lighting as a stylistic difference for their work. They make killer images because they have worked with the technique long enough to know where and how to absolutely use it.

However that might be, we are talking about the bulk of our shooting approaches here.

To see it for your own self, set up something as a still life and move your softbox all around it as you make the photographs. You may have to add a little fill to the front (large white card perhaps) but shoot one with side light, back light, side/back light, low back light, high overhead backlight.

And shoot some with the light up front.

I believe you will see the difference and may help you think about your light in a bit of a different way.

Summer is here, and this is the time for more shooting, more portfolio building, and more list building for potential clients. This PROVEN system will help you on your way. These modules are free and there is a premium version on sale for a super deep discount you will read more about on the site. Build a great portfolio while you are building a client list that makes sense. Find Photo Clients NOW

This is the Portfolio Build Class for mid-level photographers. This is not a class for beginners, or for the more experienced photographers. This is a class for photographers working on their portfolio to make it more appealing to art directors, editors, and designers. More information and enrollment.

Your portfolio will be evaluated before acceptance. If you are not accepted, you will be instantly refunded the enrollment fee.

More Info Here

Have you wanted to take a look at the Project 52 workshop without committing for a year?

Well here is your chance. An 8 Week Project 52 Pro Membership is ready for you to get into – NOW. And it is the full deal. All of the resources, assignments, reviews, webinars and more are there for you to work with. This is NOT a truncated offer, but a full opportunity for you to take advantage of the most unique photographic workshop on the internet.

More Information Here.

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.