10 things your fancy camera won’t do.

Image

When composing an image creatively, only you know whether you want the statue or the building in focus

 

As a photographer, I’m used to being told that my days are numbered. The latest cameras have more and more automatic features and pretty soon you wont need to know anything about photography at all to take a great photograph, it will be something everyone can do.

 

If a camera comes along that can do any of these ten things then either we’ve invented artificial intelligence capable of creative thought, or we’ve invented mind reading technology capable of translating your thoughts about what you want to create into actions. Either way I think photographers won’t be the only people out of work and cameras are unlikely to be the first place we see such technology.

 

As for me, I’m not overly concerned

 

Tell you what depth of field you need

Depth of field is one of the key qualities of an image which comes as a trade-off with the amount of light hitting the sensor. What you want is a highly creative decision varying from very shallow focus where only one small part of your subject is sharp to very deep focus keeping both foreground and background sharp; and involves some reading of the scene as the camera doesn’t know how large your subject is and therefore how much depth of field is required to get the whole subject in focus.

 

Know where you want to focus

Autofocus has taken some of the legwork out of getting the focussed part of an image sharp, but it is still down to you to pick where on the frame you want the autofocus to operate. Simple in principle but it takes practice to be able to pick and focus flawlessly especially on a moving subject. Say you want to photograph a cyclist passing in front of a building; the camera doesn’t know it’s the cyclist you want in focus rather than the building (assuming it is).

 

Know how fast your subject is moving

A moving subject can be challenging to focus on. Either you can focus on the space they’re move into and take the photo when they enter it, or you can use continuous focus mode and try and keep the autofocus point over them as they move. Both of these techniques require you to know how they’re moving, which goes back to the point of knowing what the subject is in the first place.

 

Know whether you want to freeze or blur motion

Remaining on the topic of moving subjects, there is another factor. Motion, like depth of field is a key quality, and like depth of field is affected by a setting which also affects the amount of light hitting the sensor. Since as with depth of field, motion is affecting by a setting which also affects the exposure there is also a level of trading off to be had, changing one setting will force you to rethink the other, and like depth of field, only you know the difference between good motion blur such as that used to convey speed in the photo of the cyclist, and bad motion blur such as the bride’s face being blurred by her motion up the aisle.

 

Tell you where to position lights

This is one of those things where there’s no right or wrong way to light a scene, but if you have a clear idea in your head if how you want it to look, you need to apply a certain amount of knowledge about how light bounces around to get an image that matches your imagination.

 

Tell you how best to process the image

Even the best photographers don’t rely purely on the image coming out of the camera ready for public consumption. Taking the raw information and either fine-tuning it to give it extra impact or applying techniques to create something completely new from it is a necessary part of the process of producing the kind of amazing images you see from the best of the best, and there are no advantages to be gained by eschewing the digital darkroom altogether. As with lighting there is no right or wrong answer, just the inspiration to see what you want and the technical skills to apply processing in the way that achieves this.

 

Tell you how best to display the image

An often overlooked skill in photography is presenting photographs. Most people will be perfectly satisfied with the pre-designed presentations of sites like Facebook and Flickr, but if you want to really get the most from your images you have to know how to use them, not just how to take them. It’s a creative choice and a difficult one to learn but doing it right can lift an image from very good to amazing.

 

Tell you where to position the camera

I thought I’d wait until point 8 for the ‘duh’ moment but no amount of automation can make a dull composition into something more alive. As you move your camera around your subject and closer or further away you change the background, the depth of field, the perspective and also influence certain human perceptions such as looking up on something versus looking down on it.

 

Tell you if there is something intruding in the image

We’ve all been there; thought we had the perfect composition only to get home and view it on the screen to realise that just to the subject’s right shoulder is an overflowing bin full of mouldy chip wrappers and burger boxes. The perception to see things which your brain has been conditioned to edit out internally comes with practice and no, your camera can’t tell you something is there, as far as your camera is concerned this could be a person intruding into a photograph of a bin as much as a bin intruding into a photograph of a person.

 

Tell you anything about the image’s visual impact

I thought I’d finish up on the most creative, most obvious and difficult to quantify thing of all, impact (I don’t know if you’d noticed I’d started with more technical aspects and moved up though levels of creativity). An image with strong impact compels you to look at it some more, and provokes a strong reaction from you, whether that be eliciting an emotion in you, or setting you off on a train of thought. In this respect photography is like any other art, and its adherents more than just technicians. Creating is a fundamentally human activity and the value of a creation is nothing without the human that created it.


6 reasons why the SLR is here to stay

The only way we'll see the back of the SLR any-time soon.

The only way we’ll see the back of the SLR any-time soon (since I’m not saying live-view doesn’t have its uses).

Every now and again, a post pops up somewhere on the internet hailing the death of the SLR. Due to newer and more sophisticated compact cameras as well as the development of things such as compact system cameras (compacts with interchangeable lenses), the SLR no longer has a place in the world. SLRs are only being kept alive by old-fashioned photographers who refuse to give up on a technology that made sense in the days of film, but are no longer relevant in the digital age and these photographers will be pushed out of the frame by a new younger, more dynamic, more carefree generation of photographers (of the kind you see in camera adverts).

But despite this, SLRs soldiers on, serious photographers still want to own them, camera manufacturers still reserve their best technology for SLRs which they bill as their ‘flagship’ models*. Those who insist that they are obsolete are focusing entirely on a few factors which are important to them and how they use cameras as an accessory to take to a party or traveling; while ignoring how people who take photographs either purely for their own enjoyment, for art or for a living use cameras. Often the people saying this are well-regarded and even professional technology commentators (and apparently, well known cityscape photographer stuckincustoms); however they often view cameras purely as another gadget, purely as something used to make a record of a memorable moment to share on Facebook. The difference between the two views of photography is much like the difference between dancing the Macarena at your friend’s wedding and professional dancing (be that ballet or street-dance). One is merely an accessory that improves your enjoyment of something else, the other is an art-form. Personally I think people often miss the distinction between different uses of photography and assume that anyone who wants to take a photograph is engaged in pretty much the same activity and therefore has the same priorities.

One – The Viewfinder

I’ll start with the reason why SLRs are called SLRs in the first place. Single Lens Reflex cameras have a mirror which directs light from the lens up into the viewfinder and then pops up to allow the same light through onto the sensor when you take an exposure. This means that when you look though the viewfinder you are seeing exactly what the sensor sees. This mechanism is what makes the distinctive shape (and part of the bulk) of an SLR camera, with the hump on the top. In the days of film, the alternative was compact cameras with viewfinders which were slightly offset from the lens, and if you had a zoom lens then as you zoomed in or out, the viewfinder stayed the same so you had no idea what the photograph would actually look like.

This was the main reason why SLRs always had interchangeable lenses and compact cameras didn’t. Many people think that an SLR is a camera with interchangeable lenses, but in fact this was a symptom of the fact that you were able to compose the image by looking directly through the lens making it practical to have more than one lens option (there was a thing called a twin-lens-reflex back in the day, look it up if you’re interested, but just so you know I’m not ignoring its existence).

Now we have digital cameras with live-view, so that we look at an LCD screen on the back of the camera with an image direct from the sensor. This also means that compact cameras can now have interchangeable lenses, which makes for so-called ‘compact system cameras’. This is one of the biggest reasons people give that SLRs are obsolete, their whole reason for being, and the reason they are so bulky is no longer required.

This is missing the point. The human eye is far more advanced a piece of optical apparatus than any LCD screen. Looking through the viewfinder enables you to see a much brighter and larger image, spot much finer detail, and as anyone who has tried to use a compact camera in bright sunlight will know, not worry about the reflection on the screen obscuring the image. Also when you look through a viewfinder everything around you disappears, all the distractions are gone and you are more focused on the photograph you are making.

An LCD is fine if your only objective in taking the photo is that both your girlfriend and the Eiffel Tower are in the frame, but not if you are concerned with composing the various elements of the image into a certain design, be it simple rule of thirds or something more complicated. So this goes back to my earlier point about something being fine for casual use as an accessory but not so much for serious use.

Two – Lag

Still on the theme of the mirror-reflex mechanism, is the issue of lag. When you take a photograph with an SLR, two things have to happen first; the mirror has to flip up, and the shutter has to open. In practice these two things happen almost instantaneously and the photograph is taken a tiny fraction of a second after you press the shutter button.

When you take a photograph using live-view (and if you have an SLR with live-view as an option then this counts for that as well) more stuff has to happen. The shutter is already open and the sensor is already recording, so first the shutter has to close, then the sensor has to discharge as it will be carrying an residual electrical charge from the image it was recording in live-view, only then can the shutter open again. This whole process takes much longer; and people who try to record fast-moving events using compacts or camera-phones will be familiar with the lag between pressing the shutter button, and an image actually being taken. If you were serious about something such as sports or wildlife photography, then you really would need to invest in an SLR.

Three – Stability

A final point about how using a viewfinder (with a reflex mechanism) is better than using a LCD screen with live-view is a little less well known, but very important. To improve stability when hand-holding a camera, and therefore reduce motion blur caused by movement of the camera, photographers like to hold their camera in a certain way. Both hands on the camera, close to the body with elbows tucked in. They will press the viewfinder right up into their face to use their head as a stabiliser and bring the centre of gravity of the photographer/camera combo as close to their body’s own centre of gravity as possible.

Live-view can be useful on an SLR, it enables the photographer to place the camera in places that their bodies can’t reach such as up high or through a narrow gap. It can also allow the photographer to take a photo from a viewpoint on the ground without having to lay down (useful in bad weather); but photographers who try this know how much of a hit they take on stability, which they have to compensate for by using a faster shutter speed and in turn a higher ISO rating, or a wider lens aperture (assuming that the reason they can’t use the normal stance also makes a tripod impractical, when using a tripod live-view can be useful ironically for stability as it reduces your need to touch the camera).

If live-view is the only option you have then this forces you to always adopt an awkward and inherently unstable stance with the camera held a foot or so in-front of you. Granted the fact that these cameras are much lighter makes it easier to do this, but it there is still the weight of your own arms to consider, the extra space you require if in a crowd and just the general discomfort that comes from having to do this all the time.

Four – It’s the ergonomy, stupid

One of the main areas where people who criticise SLRs and those who stick with them seem to be missing the point, is that beneath it all is an assumption that in technology, smaller is always better. Again this stems from looking at cameras purely as gadgets and accessories. If it is small enough to fit in your top pocket, more comfortable to carry around and doesn’t require its own bag then this is good. There are no advantages at all to being bigger.

Remember part of the reason SLRs are larger is due to their reflex mechanism, but also because due to this mechanism they are more suitable for serious use, so the size and the fact a camera is an SLR goes hand in hand.

One of the things that photographers always judge a new SLR on is how comfortable it is to hold and how easily usable the controls are. The more comfortable you are with a camera in your hands, the faster you will be able to respond to a situation which forces you to change your settings, and more camera control will become second-nature. This is where SLRs really excel, an it isn’t unusual to hear a new SLR model commended for having a good heft.

Not to say that smaller and lighter cameras aren’t easier to carry, but how you plan to use the camera affects whether you are prepared to accept small and fiddly controls and an LCD screen that forces you to use only your finger-tips to hold the camera and go through a menu system in order to change each setting in return for something that will go nicely in your pocket; or whether you are prepared to accept a camera and lenses that requires a special bag which will give your abs a work-out in return for being able to grasp the camera in two hands with separate buttons and dials for commonly used controls.

Five – Noise

One other area where smaller isn’t always better concerns the technology itself, specifically the size of the sensor and the corresponding signal-to-noise ratio. A smaller camera has to have a smaller sensor; and a smaller sensor (assuming the number of megapixels remains the same) means smaller pixels (photo-sites). These are the little ‘buckets’ that collect light. The smaller they are the greater the possibility that errant electrical pulses coming from the camera’s own circuitry as well as from the atmosphere will overwhelm the electrical charge built up by the photons that have landed in said bucket. The darker it is the less photons there are to begin with and the more this electrical charges will have an effect.

These random pulses show up in the images as unattractive and obscuring noise. The upshot is that the smallest sensors such as those found in camera-phones create an unacceptable level of noise even when the light levels are moderate, and are completely unusable in conditions where an SLR with a larger sensor still performs admirably. Even a decent compact camera suffers more than an SLR would when conditions get challenging.

Six – Big Glass

Finally, a larger camera means larger lenses, and larger lenses transmit more light. The amount of light a lens transmits is a ratio of the focal length of the lens to the diameter of the lens aperture (well specifically the exit pupil but I don’t want to get too technical) given as an ‘f number’ (f = focal length / pupil diameter). This can be varied by adjusting the aperture but each lens will have a maximum ‘f number’ when the aperture is wide open. The larger the lens, given that the focal length is the same, the smaller the f number, a smaller f number means more light. Because the sensor in a smaller camera is smaller, the focal length can be shorter to achieve the same field of view, so it is still possible for tiny lenses to have small f numbers, but this comes at a cost in terms of sharpness, not to mention the fact that smaller lenses mean any slight aberration in the surface of the glass is magnified. If you want a fast lens that is also of excellent quality then inevitably size matters.

As I have said throughout I think a lot of this is to do with people not distinguishing enough between the activity of someone who wants to share something funny their cat did and someone who wants to create art. Also a lot of newcomers to photography don’t realise at first how steep the learning curve is to start producing works of real wonder. At first, a compact camera will fulfill all their needs and they will go through a phase of wondering what people who carry big bulky SLRs are bothering for; it takes a while before they start to realise that they are not yet anywhere near the sort of level that gets recognition and that the equipment you use has its own part to play in getting there. So there you go, my six points. Feel free to add more of your own, and I’d be keen to know if anyone out there disagrees completely with everything I’ve just said.

*yes I am sad that my own manufacturer Olympus have bowed out of the SLR market, but this is everything to do with the competition from the big names and the fact no-one else bought into the 4/3 format and nothing to do with SLRs being defunct.


Don’t forget to nurture your style

Dunkerque Beach
If I had to answer the question, what piece of advice do I wish I’d had (or at least had been hammered into me more assertively) before I set up my business, this would be my answer.

For any photographer, deciding to go ‘pro’ brings with it a range of new responsibilities. You have to work at marketing yourself, you have to network and meet potential customers, you have to provide customer service to existing customers, you have to keep on top of your accounts and plan for the future, you have to start thinking of photography in terms of what your customers want, and what is commercially successful. Doing all of this places certain demands on your time and competes what you really want to be doing more than anything, and that is taking pictures (not to say running a business and meeting people can’t be fun, most self employed people would agree that it beats sitting in an office).

You will of course be spending time taking and working on images for your clients, and from time to time, like you always did before you went pro, you will go somewhere and take your camera with you fir purely leisure reasons. At first you may think that this is perfectly fine, but after a while you may feel that something is missing. If most of the photos you take are commissioned then they will start to get a bit samey, because a paid commission is no time to get all experimental and push your boundaries, also there is often a noticeable distinction between commissioned photos and fine art (which is what you’re doing when you have no agenda behind your photography other than to create emotive images).

The photos you take for your customers shouldn’t really comprise more than about 40% of all the photos you take, and taking ‘personal’ photographs shouldn’t just be something you do occasionally. This isn’t just me thinking about your happiness or trying to make you a better photographer, it is how you develop your personal style, and this is your unique selling point. Forget about innovative business models and customer service, the reason your customers choose you over your competitors is because they like your work and no-one else, not even the well known photographer in your town who is almost a local celebrity, can do what you do.

The other thing is that, although it can seem like the photos you take out of interest are completely separate from what people are prepared to pay for, they are the ones that will make people notice you. Sure your customers will also want to see that you can create images to a brief, that meet their needs, but if you are regularly taking photos that convey such emotion that people are interested in you as an artist, then you are capturing the attention of people who will then think ‘I love X’s work, wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could do a commission for me’.

I should have paid more attention to this at the outset of my business, I fell into the trap of thinking that my artwork was something totally separate to my commercial work, and ended up neglecting it. Then I saw how many people were choosing a photographer to commission because they had seen their artwork at an exhibition, or online. So now I’m devoting a couple of days per week purely to creating art (one day in the studio, one day outside), and this art will become part of who I am, and part of what people want to pay to hire. I hope this advice is of use to some photographers out there who are about to embark on the journey that I’m on.


10 things I can’t stand about photography.

The Walker's Friend
Putting the boot in to the world of photography.

If you want to be funny then I think it’s easier to be angry than clever, and I’m not very clever; so here are ten things in photography that really wind me up. No offence is intended to anyone, feel free to add your own gripes (even if that gripe is bloggers who put together lists of gripes).

1) That click-whirr noise that TV producers can’t show a series of photographs without playing. There was a relatively brief moment in the camera’s history, after the invention of the motor-drive but before the advent of digital when cameras made that noise, and it was irritating even then.

2) Canons are dumb, nuh-uh Nikkon’s are rubbish… Get a life! (anyway Olympus is where it’s at).

3) Camera manufacturers rebranding techniques which photographers have been using since the year dot. You know who you are, Background defocus.

4) Camera advertising in general which likes to suggest that give anyone a point-and-shoot and within minutes they’ll be running round a continental city and generally living life to the full while firing off a series of edgy urban masterpieces without even having to break stride or look through the eyepiece.

5) Photographers who think they’re the first person ever to realise you don’t always have to follow the rule of thirds; or any other ‘rule’ for that matter.

6) HDR… Well actually hold back, because I don’t want to open that particular can of worms. What irritates me most isn’t so much the HDR itself (and certainly not well done HDR, check out stuckincustoms), but people who leave comments like ‘duuude, sick image!’ on any old HDR, even if it’s just being used to add some glitter to an otherwise poor photograph.

7) Certain snippets of photographer slang. I don’t know what it is about words like ‘tog’ (photographer) and ‘glass’ (lens) that irritate me when I’m happy to call a studio flash a strobe, but the phrase ‘hey there’s a tog over there with some awesome glass’ makes my flesh creep. I think it’s just photographers trying to be something we’re not (cool, or casual or something).

8) Chris Moyles. Nothing to do with photography (unless you’re at a morning shoot in a car dealership, which I often am) but he deserves a mention on any list anyone compiles of the most annoying things in any field.

9) Gearheads. I’m walking on dangerous ground here, and I don’t want to sound snobbish but some people spend more time talking about minute differences between various bits of kit than they do learning how to use said kit. This relates to point 2.

10) And finally, just to show that not everything that bugs me is the fault of other people, that realisation after a shoot that there was a great photo opportunity I either missed, or didn’t make enough of. There will always be things you could have done differently but for a period I seem to kid myself into believing that if I’d only done this or that then I would have taken the best photograph anyone has ever taken anywhere. Utter rubbish of course, but I don’t want to come across as infallible or anything.


Small Business Small Footprint

Broken Wall

I’ve always been keen to do what I can to reduce my own impact on the environment, however, as a small business I feel that there is a lack of any network to help with doing this and nothing to assure my clients of the value of what I’m doing. There is information out there to help small businesses identify what impacts their business has on the environment, and to reduce this impact, but you have a wade through a lot of stuff which is only relevant to large businesses, and often reverse engineer the advice to fit your business.

Individually, the impact small businesses have on the environment is tiny when compared with large ones, and there isn’t much regulation they have to comply with, but in Cumbria, for example, together they contribute significantly to the environmental footprint of The county as a whole. Mostly this is related to car travel, but I have also identified factors such as energy use and estimate my own business carbon footprint as about 4.2 tonnes of CO2 per year. This is not to mention other factors not related to CO2, such as disposal of batteries.

So I’ve decided to do something about it. I’m looking into carbon offset schemes at the moment. This is where you fund organisations whose work reduces carbon emissions worldwide, such ad those researching and building eco-friendly energy schemes, or planting trees enough to reduce emissions by the same amount that you have created. I’m also looking at creating a local network called small business small footprint to help raise awareness, collect advice and inform customers of local businesses commitments to reduce their impact.

I hope that small business small footprint can be very informal, in the spirit of its creation it will exists solely online, with no leaflets or flyers, no one will have to register, or pay for it, or comply with anything in order to join, it will simply exist as a statement of intent, and a badge of honour, so watch this space.


Five things to look for in abandoned buildings

Works Canteen, Six Years On

I will return to my post about black and white photography soon, it was quite an ambitious post and I’ve spent the last month on-and-off thinking about the last six reasons. I’ll break it up with five points about photography in derelict and abandoned sites, as I’ve become more interested in this since getting a new ultra-wide-angle lens (not used in the above photo, which was taken last year). Below are a few things to look out for if you decide to venture camera-in-hand into some derelict buildings yourself, but you’ll have to find your own inspiration, I can’t help you with that.

Man’s work being reclaimed by nature
Maintaining a working building is a constant battle to keep nature out, but as soon as maintenance stops, nature wins. Buildings which have been empty for some time will be full of nature’s reclamations. Examples to look out for are lichen, moss, plants and even in some cases, trees growing in the middle of buildings, climbing plants look particularly good working their way over girders and stairwells. The animal kingdom has also staked a claim here so look out for insect nests or evidence of feral cat colonies.

Obsolete technology and vintage items
Sites which ceased to be occupied many years ago tend to be filled with the technology of that period, as well as other items which put a date on their abandonment, such as newspapers, magazines and styles of decor and furnishing. These can be fascinating in themselves as well as lending context to your photos. For example, look out in office buildings for old computers and printers, it will all help the storytelling aspect of your photography.

Patterns of decay
As things decay they become overrun with organic patterns which contrast with the straight lines and sharp edges of human construction. Peeling paint, mould, damp and rust all form interesting textures, or patina as it is called. Patina is a favourite of many photographers shooting dereliction so look for the most interesting examples in the site you’re exploring.

Left in a hurry
Some of the most provocative images from abandoned buildings are those that show signs of the normal activity that took place in a building prior to its abandonment. Desks with paperwork still on, canteen tables with trays and glasses left on tables, in the right circumstances it can look as though the building was abandoned very quickly, people dropping whatever they were doing and making for the exits. The key phrase is ‘as though’, if the building was really left in such haste you should perhaps question the logic of you being there.

Patterns of light and shadow
Broken ceilings and walls allow shafts of bright sunlight to penetrate where a lack of artificial lighting leaves most of the interior very dark. This creates fantastic opportunities to create dramatic photographs using shadows and highlights; a technique called chiaroscuro. In particular look out for shadows cast by jagged holes and the skeletal girders of the building, and shafts of light visible in dusty or humid interiors.

Finally, remember a building doesn’t have to be abandoned to be derelict. I have found numerous scenes of decay and grit in my home town in perfectly operational, if poorly maintained buildings. So keep your eyes peeled for these as well as the true abandoned sites. If anything they are easier and safer to gain access to. If you’re interested in really throwing yourself into this then I would recommend checking in at one of the many online communities of urban explorers, for safety tips and help on sites in your area, 28 days later is a good example of a UK based community.


10 reasons to go black & white – Part 1

Dwarfed by the Landscape

Black and white photographs once dominated the photography scene for technical reasons, either because colour photography was yet to be invented, or because colour film was expensive and difficult to home-process (even as a student photographer in the early noughties, we shot in black and white because that was all we had the equipment to develop and enlarge). Now, even though digital photography has relegated black-and-white to a mere option in post-processing, it remains popular; and not just as a way for lazy photographers to make a dull or bad photo interesting and moody, but as a valid medium used by some of the top photographers in the world (this is my blog so I’m using my photograph to illustrate it but I don’t pretend it is a particularly outstanding example of the art form). It saddens me that to many photographers it is now just an option, to be thought of later and rarely considered from the start, as you would have to with black and white film. I would have to concede that I don’t necessarily agree either that you should have a fixed idea of what the image you are creating is at the moment you shoot and deny later flashes of inspiration, post-processing is after all part of the art; but there’s a difference between a light-bulb moment and an afterthought, or even worse, an afterthought that is also a cliche.

You can buy whole books on black and white photography, I have neither the skill nor the space to compete with them in this small post, so I just want to extol the virtues of the monochromatic and hopefully help provide inspiration to other photographers by summarising what exactly you can do with black and white. I have 10 points to make, I’ll make four here and six in another post later.

1. Make it all about form
This the number one thing about black and white which all books emphasise. The eye is drawn to contrast and in a colour photographs, parts where there is a lot of contrast between colours stand out and the photo becomes about them. Remove the colour and you will look at the image in a whole new way, contrasts which draw the eyes are now those between light and dark, and more importantly, between different shapes. If this is what is interesting about the photograph, then you don’t need colour, so in the interests of brevity, leave it out.

2. Suddenly dark shadows and bright highlights are a virtue.
When taking photographs, normally (with many exceptions) you will be trying to avoid blocked shadows and blown highlights (areas of the photograph which are so bright or so dark as to appear pure black or pure white). They can look a bit unnatural and detail within them is lost. However with black and white, because black and white are the main elements of composition and you don’t expect to see shades of colour in the highlights land shadows you can get away with them to an extent. Like in my photograph above, shooting straight into the sun the sky was always going to be blown with blocked shadows in the hills, and this doesn’t look right in colour where we don’t expect to see pure blacks and whites but is perfectly acceptable in black and white,

3. Grey skies become natural.
Dull grey skies often ruin an otherwise strong photograph. I’m not talking about dramatic, cloud formations or stormy skies, but flat overcast days. The quality of light can actually be quite good, but the background will be this grey slab, which can jar against some (not all) colour compositions. However, with black and white photography, it doesn’t matter what colour the sky is, so if you have a photograph which would be great if it weren’t for the grey sky, try it in black and white. It might still be boring, but at least it won’t jar.

4. Filters, a new way of looking at colour
Shooting in black and white doesn’t mean you can just forget about colour altogether, when you convert a colour image to black and white you can select how light or dark certain colours will become. When using black and white film this was achieved by placing a coloured filter over the lens, so for example, a red filter would let more red light through than blue, resulting in blue objects appearing darker, commonly used to get wonderfully rich dark skies. When shooting digitally you will shoot in colour and then convert to black and white, and it is at this point you can replicate the effect of coloured filters and experiment with filters of any colour you desire.