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The Art of Black and White Photography will give you new skills with working with black and white photographs.

Book Review: The Art Of Black And White Photography – Techniques for Creating Superb Images in a Digital Workflow By Torsten Andreas Hoffmann

After digital photography broke on to the scenes, it evolved at such a fast speed that it has literally replaced film photography as the default standard for imaging in less than a decade. The changeover created its fair share of difficulties as well as growing pains, but as technology evolves, so do the processes.

But digital photography goes beyond the technology; it is about the images and their content. It is about the mood, and the formal arrangement contained in the images. The goal of The Art Of Black And White Photography: Techniques for Creating Superb Images in a Digital Workflow is to help you become familiar with digital photography and help you focus on the image again. Author Torsten Andreas Hoffmann's work is 272 pages in length, contains 35 chapters, and is divided into four sections.

Section 1, "Tools and Fundamentals," gets to the heart of digital photography, the camera and other tools that are used for capturing great images. First you will see how to choose the correct camera. In this section you will learn about sensors, the kind of sensor you should choose, and the advantages and disadvantages of using compact cameras. Next you will see why you should always photograph in RAW Mode and how it collects all of the data that you will need for processing the best black and white images. Finally you will explore the types of filters that you should use and what they can do for your images.

Section 2, "Photographic Genres and Concepts," shows that to get beyond the clichéd photo, you first have to ask yourself what characterizes a clichéd photo; in most cases it is a poor copy of a photo that has been reproduced numerous times. If you think of the Eiffel Tower, you can imagine how hard it would be to get a unique picture of this photographic icon. In this section you will learn about different types of photographic styles and what makes each of them work and not work.

Some of these styles of photography include street, landscape, architectural, surreal, and portrait. Here you will learn how to use existing techniques to capture some of these styles and how to make these styles your own. What you should come away with in this section is what really interests you and how can you make the type of image you are trying to create more authentic, and how can you impose your feelings and emotions on the image.

Section 3, "Rules of Composition," begins with the concept of what is pictorial composition – that is, how do you make the space in a photo resemble the tones of a melody that produce a composition. While there is no one way, there are certain guidelines that will help you create this masterpiece. Here you will learn of the golden ratio, triangular composition, rhythm, perspective, tension between two elements, and how to deal with the center of an image.

You will also see how less is often more, how to handle the balance in a photograph, and how the play of forms works within an image. The language of images has its own laws and is as old as the Greek principles of harmony. It is in these chapters that you will learn how to use these laws.

Section 4, "The Digital Darkroom," reminds us of something that film photographers always knew: that half of the pictorial effect in an image is achieved in the darkroom. In the digital world, this is no different – it is just that the tools have changed. Armed with Photoshop, there is nothing in the digital world that cannot be achieved that was accomplished in the analog world.

In this section you will explore creating black and white images from color by the use of conversion, working with the lasso tool set and the magic wand to accomplish partial manipulation, the use of retouching, correcting with the distortion filter, and how to use the black and white conversion techniques in Photoshop CS3. 

Hoffmann brings out the possibilities of manipulation of color digital images into black and white. Each chapter begins with a summary of the history of the topic, after which it is translated into the digital realm.

While I like most everything about The Art Of Black And White Photography, one of my favorites is the exploration of genres within the art and then exploration of the composition and design. The other thing is that while color is not addressed from within the scope of this book, if you do work with color, you will gain a lot of knowledge from the insight gained from the concepts of tonality and contrasts of black and white images. If you want to gain new skills with working with black and white photographs, then I recommend this probing and penetrating work.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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