Black and white photography or Monochrome photography Per Wikipedia:
Monochrome photography is photography where the image produced has a single hue, rather than recording the colors of the object that was photographed. It includes all forms of black-and-white photography, which produce images containing tones of grey ranging from black to white. Most modern black-and-white films, called panchromatic films, record the entire visible spectrum. Some films are orthochromatic, recording visible light wavelengths shorter than 590 nanometres.
Black-and-white photography is considered more subtle and interpretive, and less realistic than color photography. Monochrome images are not direct renditions of their subjects, but are abstractions from reality, representing colors in shades of grey. In computer terms, this is often called greyscale.
Now that we have the definition of what it is we can do it. Or can we? Most of the newer Point and Shoot digital cameras come with an option to photograph in black and white or in color. Of course if you donâ€™t use the option to photograph in B/W and do all your photography in color you can convert it using software.
These days most use Adobe Photoshop to covert color to black and white. There are many other software options like <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.corel.com/corel/category.jsp?cat=cat20138&rootCat=cat3610089">Corel Paintshop Pro X4</a>Corel Paintshop Pro X4 or the free <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.gimp.org/downloads/">GIMP</a>. In Photoshop you can covert color to black and white by using Image-Adjustments-Desaturation. This gives you a grey scale version of the color photo.
Also in Photoshop, as well as other graphics programs that can use Filters/Plugins, you can convert to Monochrome/Black and White by using an independent manufactured Filter/Plugin such as Topazâ€™s <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.topazlabs.com/products.html">Black and White Effects</a> filter/plugin or The PluginSiteâ€™s <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.thepluginsite.com/products/photowiz/index.htm">Black and White Styler</a> filter/plugin. There are others but these two and the built in Photoshop filter are the only ones I have used personally.
You can also use black and white with color by combining two of the same photo; one in color the other in black and white. You layer them and brush out the area you want to show as either color or black and white. Doing this you can create a unique print of your own photo.
Iâ€™ve done that before where I would convert a photo to black and white then erase the flower to show the colored flower beneath the black and white layer. You then combine both layers; copy the resulting layer, delete the merge layer and paste the newly created layer back as a new layer within the layers of your work. I usually create a totally new file with the newly created photo so that I have it separate from the original photo and work done on it.
I remember when so many were saying that black and white photography was dead that few would ever use it again if at all. Black and white photography has a place still. For example you might like to see the work of a Gather member who does B/W photography almost exclusively. Arleen Hodge has some great work posted here on Gather to see her work click <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.gather.com/viewAlbumsByMember.action?memberId=849412">here</a>.
With black and white or monochrome photography you have to know composition very well or your photos will not look like Arleenâ€™s do. She knows how to compose her shots so that the dramatic aspects of the scene capture your eye and mind. The shot can be a fairly simple looking shot but convey meaning that if done in color just does not have the impact that black and white can have.
I learned photography using black and white. For one thing I was married, not a lot of money so the cheapest way to go then was B/W. In the years after I started doing photography I was able to purchase a cheap enlarger, the tanks to develop the film in as well as the chemicals and trays to do the developing of the prints. I spent lots of nights in my darkroom which was in the bathroom. You need a very dark place to work, the red lights to keep from damaging the paper as you are exposing it with the enlarger so our bathroom was where I set up my darkroom. Of course this meant I did all of my work after everyone else had gone to bed.
I use black and white conversion for most of my portraiture because with color the eye is distracted by the color. With black and white (monochrome) the eye sees the subject so to speak in a new light; actually without color you see the composition much better. It can be stark, dramatic or suggest a quiet peaceful scene and the eye sees more detail on average with the black and white image that is over looked with color.
Personally I think everyone should learn to shoot in black and white before they are allowed to use color if they want to become a photographer. I know the classes I took in college in photography we never used color at all. But then those were just beginning classes in photography and I never took the more advanced classes in the photography school. I was working on a degree to be an art teacher so I needed classes in all the different areas of art, art history and I elected to take more classes than I really needed just because I enjoyed learning.
Try black and white (monochrome) photography you might find you like it and if not you have not lost but actually gained by trying it. I shoot in color but as I said convert to black and white when I feel the subject is strong enough to use it as a B/W print. You will find that as I stated using black and white you have to work on your composition which will help with your color photography as well.
If you try it let me know how you liked it and if you post any shots in B/W let me know so I can see them.