Making Great B&W Without Great Light

I enjoyed a small project this week relating to black and white photography working on photos without “good” light. That is, photos taken during overcast or bad weather days, such as fog, rain or snow. The inspiration was a virtual event on the subject at the Boston Camera Club with Jack Curran, a terrific photographer specializing in black & white imagery.

[Update: It is with great sadness to say that just a month after this event Jack Curran unexpectedly passed away. I attended several of his presentations over the years and truly benefited from studying his wonderful photography.]

Custom House in Fog

First, I started with a recent image of the Boston skyline. It is relatively closeup where the Custom House tower is the star of the show. The fog was rolling through downtown and engulfing the tops of the buildings, especially in the rear. In processing, I added a bit more fog upfront in the middle of the frame, something I have seen happen before. With some general dodging and burning to highlight the tower, I think the photo came out pretty well and an example that only looks good in B&W.

Next, I went back to my 2014 image library and found this photo of when a snowstorm made for a great scene in Boston’s North Square, the oldest public square in the country.

North Square Winter
Original unprocessed image in color

At the time, there was the BEST tree in the center of the square. Unfortunately, the tree died a few years later. During this storm, the snow was swirling and I was out capturing images for my series, Boston in the Snow

As so often is the case with snow images, B&W just makes sense. This was early in my photography work and I was into toned filters. I’m not as thrilled with that look today. But, I think it still works ok. I included the original “out of camera” color image so you can see how the B&W version puts the emphasis on the tree and the surrounding architecture, rather than the crossing sign and window lights.

So, that’s my effort into making great black and white photographs without great light. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! 

Prints, digital downloads, licensing and keepsakes of images in this post are available here.

Matt Conti Written by:

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply