Guest Challenge: How to Tell a Story through B&W Photography



So, the last time that I guest-posted here we focused on getting emotionally involved with the subject matter we’re recording in full colour photography.  Now, we’re going to work a little harder by producing black and white images.  Stay emotively connected, you’re still going to need to apply that to whatever type of photography you prefer.

Why is black and white photography harder to do?  It’s because most of us see in vivid living colour.  We’re so used to seeing that way that we also instinctively try to shoot that way.  Unless severely colour blind, we technically do not see in monochrome.  Our eyes themselves do not see in colour, but our brains extract that photonic information from the light spectrum, and processes it so that we can appreciate colour.

In order to see in black and white; therefore, we have to condition our minds to ignore all or most colour, as though it’s a distraction, and concentrate on all the other aspects of imagery at the moment we are shooting:

  • Form/shape;

  • Texture;

  • Light and shadow (from bright white, through all grey values, to pitch black);

  • High or low intensity of contrast;

  • Soft diffuseness or hardness of light;

  • Opaqueness of darkness;

  • Composition;

  • Whatever else we can use to dramatize and describe whatever we’re shooting.

Although it’s a funny word to be associating with creative photography, what we want to do is illustrate our subject matter.

My background in the arts is that of an illustrator.  Illustrators use visual art to tell stories; either real or imagined.  I am specifically a 2D visual artist; I paint and draw.  It is the techniques that I rely on as an illustrator that I also apply to my photography, especially my B/W work.  Here are a few illustrators’ narrative techniques that you will need for this challenge:

  1. Exploit exaggerations, especially in regards to physical movement.  We like to photograph faces because so much can be interpreted; accurately or inaccurately, from someone’s physiognomy and expressions.  Sometimes, however, you can’t or don’t want to photograph people up close.  This obviously means that you can’t rely on faces too much in telling a story.  Look for body movement that illustrates that someone or something has triggered a reaction in another.  If a cat is virtually motionless while pivoting only an ear to focus on a sound coming from somewhere, it may be better to wait for that cat to turn its head and articulate its body in order to look in the direction of the sound.  Photograph that body language.  Show that exaggeration.

  1. Play mind games through straight photography.  Many of us enjoy using Photoshop and its contemporaries to make unrealistic scenes, like turtles flying through the pellucid air of someone’s bedroom.  There is a challenge; nevertheless in trying to photograph something as it actually is while relying mainly or exclusively on tricks of natural or unnatural light to create a fanciful idea.  Induce emotions, curiosity, surprise and bewilderment in your viewers by making them question if what they see is possible or not.  M.C. Escher was an illustrator who did this often.

  1. Photograph subject matter that either leads up to or away from the climax of a story.  Yes it can be powerful to photograph a house, fully engulfed in flames with its family and neighbours standing by watching firefighters do their best to save the home.  Impact can still be made about how the place looks after it’s been gutted, and the homeless family might be in a temporary shelter somewhere dealing with loss and an insurance company.  There’s a story outside of the climax that needs to be investigated and told.

Now let’s see what happens to your B/W photography.  Straight monochromes, duotones, tritones, and quadtones are all included in the black and white realm of photography.  Show the world what you can do!




Chico Solitario

Chico Solitario


Hey Look at Me When I'm Talkin' to Ya

Hey Look at Me When I’m Talkin’ to Ya


It's Been a Long Night

It’s Been a Long Night


Life Is . . .

Life is …


Low Key

Low Key


Shame On You

Shame On You


Here follow links to contributors’ posts: 

Black & White Sunday: My Workstation (response to Guest Challenge)

This post is my response to a guest challenge hosted by the Jagged Man. His theme is “My Workstation”.  Please read his post to get an idea what you are supposed to do.

And here is my entry:




Wishing you all a happy and productive Sunday!



 Click on the titles bellow to see the participants’ entries for this challenge:


Ese’s workstation

My Son’s Workstation

Granny Duty

Sue’s workstation

Sonya’s Workstation

Debbie’s Hoffice

Mi sitio de trabajo

Black & White Sunday: Personality

What follows is a black & white rendition of my portrait photo of Jane Eyre doll. Jane Eyre is the main character in Bronte’s novel by the same name and quite a personality. You can see earlier posts dedicated to her here and here.




I look forward to seeing your choice of personalities for this Sunday. Remember, you are allowed to step outside the theme and post any other subject in B&W.



Please see the gorgeous entries for this Black & White Sunday. Click on the titles bellow:

Tangerine a la Parisienne 

Personality by Ese

Max the Dog

Stone Arrangement by Colline

Personality by Klara


B&W Retrospective – 2014

This year has a Black & White Retrospective too. If you have missed the colour one go here. This one has a more exciting score I think. Happy New Year Everybody!



Black & White Sunday: Withered

My thought of the day: We live in a fragile ego-system.




If you want to join my Black and White Sunday, feel free to grab the widget bellow and post a photo (or several of them) for this or some other theme of your choice. Just make sure it is black & white and link it to this post.




These are this week’s contributions for Black and White Sunday:


Sound of silence

Making the Most Of It

Withered by Ese

Black & White Sunday: Velvety

velvety jaw

Maybe you want to share your black and white photos with me? Grab the widget bellow and join me. Feel free to choose this or any other theme.



Related posts from fellow bloggers:

Remembering Paris in black & white


If you want me to see your B&W photos, please leave me a link.

Related articles:

Those who follow will never learn to walk

Beware of strength in numbers
They play better than one
A group of those who follow
Can never reach the sun

(Great Northern: Numbers)


Sundays are starting to get monochromatic for me, and with Winter coming I foresee more black and white Sunday shots on this blog. If you want me to see your black and white world, leave me a link in the comment section.

Related posts:

Black and White Weekly Photo Challenge: TOYS

The One That Got Away

The One That Got Away

Here is the link to Sonel’s amazing toy collection, and her b&w challenge.

Black & White Photo Challenge: Bridges


most na savi


domovinski most


I would like to thank Sophia for the inspiration and for giving me a push to go and explore more bridges in my town. For more information on Black & White Photo Challenge click here.

Black and White Photo Challenge: Nature

Touch, I remember touch

Pictures came with touch

A painter in my mind

Tell me what you see

(Touch by Daft Punk)


This is my entry for Sonel’s awesome B&W Photo Challenge. Check out her fabulous photos here.