Color Photography Is Making You Lose Your Imagination

Black and white photography is all about imagination. Color photography shows you the way the world is. The sky is blue, the grass is green, the sun is orange. Black and white forces creativity upon the viewer, it makes you imagine life how you want to. There’s a simplicity in the lack of color that cannot be explained. We’ve gotten lost as creatives and have become lazy letting color tell the story and create emotion, when subject matter, composition, and light should reign king.

A few months ago I challenged myself to shoot nothing but black and white. No color to make those sunsets pop, or cinematic grading to create an “emotion.” Instead of searching for colors that look cool and dramatic, I was forced to focus on what I was photographing. Thinking critically about light affecting my compositions and capturing the feeling of a scene in a photograph.

Now, I wouldn’t completely ditch color. We live in a color world and stories and emotions can be told with the correct use of color. However, the focus of color should not be the priority. Shoot for black and white. Shoot for captivating composition and good light. Strive to make an image that will stand its own without color. If your photo is bad, adding a whole new spectrum like color will not help.

Shoot for captivating composition and good light

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Here are some practical tips for shooting black and white and to really focus your vision.

Tip #1: Buy Some Film

We live in a digital era of immediate gratification and feedback, so this will be a good practice to learn to really hone in your craft as each image will cost some money and you won’t be able to review them until a lab processes them. Shooting black and white film will force you into making images with absolutely no color, only whites, greys, and blacks. It’s a great challenge and one that many photographers adopt permanently into their workflow.

You can find affordable used 35mm film cameras and film all over the web. My personal favorites are Kodak Tri-X and Ilford HP5. A great starter camera is the Canon AE-1 or a Nikon FM2.

Tip #2: Chase the Light

It’s a common phrase in the photo industry to chase the light. It’s a little overused, but for good reason. Chase that light, really chase after it and find ways to incorporate light with your subjects. Shoot in the morning and evening when the sun is low. Shoot at midday when it’s the harshest. Learn to use the sun in every situation.

Tip #3: Search for Shapes

This can go hand in hand with the using shapes to draw attention to a subject. I see this all the time in street photography where a subject is positioned around unique shapes and/or unique light. It creates layers in your image and can help focus you in on a subject.

Tip #4: Don’t Fall for the Preset Trap

Create your own style, don’t rehash someone else. Each artist is different and your work should reflect that. Black and white photographs are easy to post process, and most of the time don’t require a lot of work, maybe just some contrast adjustments.

Tip #5: Focus on your Composition

Probably the most important rule is to really focus on your composition. When shooting you have to worry about composition, color, and light. Shoot black and white and now all you have to deal with is composition and color. With the mindset of shooting for black and white you’ll focus less on your colors during the shooting time and more about how your subject looks.

These tips hopefully will help you find your style and perfect your compositions. When you shoot for black and white with the focus on your subject and composition, your images will be more captivating than if you just shot with the idea of fixing it with a color grade.

#SayNoToColor

Making a HUGE move across the country

Emily and I are now settling down here in Oakland, CA. After a week of travel, we are relieved to be adjusting to our new home. The drive out here was so beautiful. The first major stop was the Badlands in South Dakota. What a place. It was basically a desert when we got there. During the summers the park gets up to around 95–105 degrees and in the winter can get as low as 15–10 degrees. We watched the sunset over the crazy rock formations and then spent the night at our insect infested campground. 

The next morning we drove another 10 hours to the border of Wyoming and Idaho to another little park called the Grand Tetons/Yellowstone. Without a doubt, these are some of the most beautiful parts of our country I have ever seen, rolling hills all the way up to a quaint valley where the city of Jackson is located dominated by views of the Grand Tetons. A few minutes north and you’ll be at the southern gates of Yellowstone National Park. 

We were not able to do a whole lot that week besides a few national parks. We had to be in Oakland in time for Emily’s first day of work. The highlight was definitely The Grand Tetons. There was so much to do, one would have to spend an entire week there exploring. We decided to go horseback riding on a hike through the hills and around a section of Jackson Lake. The views were just to die for. We started the trail down a winding valley, slowly making our way uphill to the grand view of the Teton Valley below.

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We spent the next day with Emily’s Aunt in Idaho and then made our way to Reno for the night. We could have driven all the way to the bay but decided to take it easy and layout by the pool instead. Driving into California was so surreal. It still doesn’t feel real yet to say that we live here. 

We are still settling down, looking for an apartment. I’m job hunting and re-establizing my freelancing here in the Bay Area. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers during this time of transition.

Kentucky Craftsman - Ben Aroh

Known for his wooden state key holders, Ben Aroh's love for his craft is shown through his meticulous skill and design. Check out his website here: ArohMade.com. I love doing personal shoots like this as there is no stress to get a certain image just room for creativity and experimenting. We photographed in the warm cozy woodshop owned by Ben's uncle. Most of these images were shot with a mix of natural light and gelled (CTO) strobe light.

Gear nerds:

Quiet Foggy Morning

It's not every day that we get blanketed with fog here in Louisville. This morning, with camera in hand, I went out and walked around downtown and the waterfront looking for some photos to make. Unfortunately being a cold Sunday at 7 am there were not very many people out and about. For the majority of these, I focused on simplicity in the city to capture the mood of our sleeping little city.

All these were either captured with a Canon 5D Mark III and Sigma 50mm 1.4 ART or my iPhone.

Bridal Fashion at the Speed Art Museum

Every year our local lifestyle magazine The Voice-Tribune creates a bridal fashion editorial for the newest trends in the wedding world. The article can be found here: https://voice-tribune.com/featured-posts/the-picture-of-beauty/ is all the final images used in the publication. I was fortunate to photograph this years editorial at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Ky.

Photo by Louisville, Ky and San Francisco, CA Portrait Photographer Ryan Noltemeyer

The Speed Art Museum is one of Louisville's art museums with a variety of exhibits and several rotating modern art exhibits. The general feel and vibe of the shoot was moody and painterly. The idea was to create a set of images that kinda mimicked the old century paintings. To achieve a sort of painterly look, I stuck to one main key light and either a fill light with a reflector or another strobe. In post processing these images I added some cool blues into the shadows and warmth into the mid-tones to create a separation of subject and background with color. 

Photo by Louisville, Ky and San Francisco, CA Portrait Photographer Ryan Noltemeyer

All the dresses we shot we all elegant and beautiful. We had two models, a hair/makeup team, a stylist, and art director to help while on set. I also had my friend Mike Vance (TheMikeVance.com, he's a killer commercial director) help out with lighting and shooting some BTS video. 

Photo by Louisville, Ky and San Francisco, CA Portrait Photographer Ryan Noltemeyer
Photo by Louisville, Ky and San Francisco, CA Portrait Photographer

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