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Action photography

When does black and white work in action photography?

Black and white photography is still popular in action photography. Often cited reasons are that it eliminates distracting colours and conveys mood and drama. But when is it right to convert an image to black and white (or shoot in Monochrome) and what are the signs to look for that will translate well into black and white?

There are no hard and fast rules. These days we have the luxury of converting a colour image into black and white in post-production to see if it works and keep the colour original. However, learning which images work best in black and white, and why, can save you time and help make the right choices.

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Low contrast shots taken in overcast conditions tend to not convert to black and white well, producing a flat grey image. Converting to black and white should add something to a shot, ask yourself how an image is improved by the conversion. Therefore it stands that high contrast images work well in black and white, images shot in bright sunny conditions produce deep shadows and bright highlights. Black and white images make good use of these and the effects can be pushed in post-production to create dramatic images.

The overriding feature in the image above is the blue car. It stands out against the sand coloured background and remains the focal point of the image. Converting to black and white flattens the image, removing the car as the main point of attention and eliminating the contrast of colours. The black and white conversion has also been used to accentuate the dust behind the car. The colour version looks washed out, whereas the black and white version makes the dust stand out against the darker background and car.

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