The Art of Architectural Photography: In the Moment with Black and White
Photography is a unique aesthetic medium in that it can be a premeditated and studied technique or a spontaneous art form. Using the medium of black and white is extremely helpful to the latter. Color is beautiful, but in designing a work that is in color, great consideration must be taken on color placement, combination, and a host of other areas of concern. On the other hand, black and white photography, while hardly simple or plain, eliminates the juxtapositions of colors and allows the photographer to concentrate on values.
What are values as they pertain to photography? Here I paraphrase from the dictionary: Values are tonality; the relative lightness and darkness of the grayscale as it pertains to black and white photography. Value measures the position of a color and/or black and white tone on the achromatic scale going from white to black. Values also apply to color, but I am concerned here with monochromatic photography, particularly black and white photography. In other words, the values or darks and lights when paring down to black and white, are elemental and can remove distractions from the subject and composition that color often presents. Of course, the wide spectrum of grays can give great depth and beauty to a photograph if they are employed as one would use any tonality.
I think in monochrome when I take photographs. Paramount in my initial photography shoots are the following: form, line, composition and values. I always shoot in color (RGB) regardless of whether I am using a point and shoot camera or my professional gear. Photographing in color has proved to be invaluable because I personally feel that more tonalities are available this way. I only used black and white on a shoot during my "film experiences" and in the last 10 years of digital shooting, I find new ways of finding the soft and/or powerful grays I love in creating an image.
Black and white photography lends itself marvelously to architectural photography. The monochromatic medium showcases the architecture without the complexities of color. Further, as a former structural draftsman, I can more easily translate architecture to photography in my mind as I shoot my subject with an eye towards black and white. Whatever the medium, the subject must be the prominent element in the composition. Black and white fosters an immediacy that color lacks for me. The intricate planning of juxtaposing colors is removed from the equation, allowing me to solely concentrate on my subject. Monochromatic photography has many benefits; however, primarily I find that the spontaneity of black and white architectural photography is often an asset to my work as a photographer.