Monochrome Photography portfolio

Anna Phillips - My history in Monochrome Photography

Black and white photography, or monochrome photography is of special interest to me. There’s just something about these contrasting shades that captures a real sense of depth. Not that colour photographs don’t do the same, but monochrome photography just has a very special sense of style and class.

Monochome photography was in fact the first type I began experimenting with. When studying photography at Leek College in Staffordshire, we used traditional tools and processes.

Working in these light rooms wasn’t just great experience, it was a good way to experiment with different photographic techniques. Because we were only able to create black and white photographs, we had to make the most of what was available to create interesting images.

I spent two years working with monochrome photography in this way. When I began studying at University, we used digital more than traditional techniques, though I applied what I learned from college to this new medium. I spent a great deal of time learning how to make effective use of curves, levels and gray scale tones in Adobe Photoshop. As a result, the lessons I’d learn from traditional photography was having an instant effect on what I was learning in digital photography.

Personally, I don’t like to use software like Photoshop and Lightroom too much. Sadly, I’ve met many photographers who don’t make effective use of their cameras and lenses, because they will ‘fix it in photoshop afterwards. As a result, I see a lot of stylised imagery such as HDR or monochrome photography, which doesn’t make the best us of what is available. Instead, you see a lot of images which just go for really high contrast to create a sense of impact.

In my experience, the key to great monochrome photography (even in really high contrast imagery) is subtlety. It’s great to make a strong impact, but what makes an image memorable are the small details. The gentle shades between strong tones, the little imperfections that give greater depth, these are what make monochrome photography really special.

Infact, a surprising amount of my best work in monochrome photography, came as a result of experimentation with colour photographs that I wasn’t happy with. For example, there is an image of two Owls in my wildlife photography portfolio. The original image was taken at Blackbrook Zoo, but in colour was lacking in depth and character.

I made the image black and white, experimented with the levels, adjusted the highlights and in just a couple of hours had created one of my favourite images. You find that by doing this regularly, you start to think in a ‘monochrome photography’ sort of way, simultaneously taking the photo with both colour and grayscale in mind.

Likewise, you’ll see a lot of the images in my monochrome photography portfolio also appear in colour in my wildlife photography portfolio. On some occasions, I can’t decide between the colour or black and white image, so will create versions of both so I get the best of both worlds.

As you’d expect, Zebra’s are probably the best looking wildlife subjects in monochrome photography. I have spent hours working on Zebra photographs in black and white. They are such iconic animals as they are, but converting the world around them into the same shades as themselves makes it clear how striking they really are.

Please revisit my monochrome photography portfolio when you get chance, as I’m regularly updating it with new black and white photographs. Thanks for reading!