If you’ve been following Smashing Magazine for a while, you know that almost all posts from the Monday Inspiration series are pretty colorful and eye-catching. This post is an exception. Compared to colorful designs where catchy colors help the design to stand out, in black-and-white designs the ability to stand out depends only on its ability to communicate rather than on its appealing visual presentation.
Indeed, beautiful black and white photography doesn’t attract with its play of colors. Here close attention to composition, lighting, perspective and the context it is shot in are important. Hence, before considering the photos presented below please prepare some patience and time. This post presents some truly excellent examples of beautiful black-and-white photography.
Notice: this post isn’t supposed to showcase the best black-and-white-photos of world’s best photographers; please see it as a modest attempt to inspire designers for experimenting with black and white instead of using a variety of vibrant colors all the time. Hopefully, everybody will find something interesting and unusual for herself or himself.
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All photos belong to the respective owners.
In her legendary photos Toni Frissell impresses with a strong trend toward surrealism or realism. The photo presented below, although in black and white, is both extremely sharp and clear. To achieve such level of clarity in black and white is extremely hard.
Alin Ciortea presents examples of modern street photography. In black and white, of course.
Unfortunately, the photographer is unknown. The photo seems to be taken at exact the right moment from exactly the right angle with a perfect lighting. Black and white can be powerful as well.
This photo, titled Candy Cigarette, not just displays something, it tells a story. It is both emotional and beautiful. This is what the originality of black-and-white-photography is all about.
This shot was taken in El Salvador. Child with star mask during “Day Of The Dead”. Other child in background rolls tire for repair in garage where he works at an adult’s job. The photo is full of tiredness and stubbornness. Simple motif conveying strong emotions.
Aneta Kowalczyk specializes in portrait photography. Some of her photos are provoking, some are strange and some are extremely beautiful. The example below displays the beautiful side of black and white photography.
Nick Brandt is a renown animal photographer which has become famous with his book of photographs, “On This Earth”, which was published in October 2005.
Taking a shot just at the right moment.
Woman Of Tibet. Realism at its best. Awarded with International Photography Awards in 2007.
Tour Eiffel: extraordinary contrast and perspective. Strong, clean and very precise shot.
Ghost Town Charm
One of the most famous contemporary black and white photographers. Classic!
Polese’s works pay close attention to small, tiny details. The tones are perfects and compositions are beautiful which is why the photos are presented in this post. Notice the sharp contrast and the lighting at the first image below and the sharp pathway leading to the light in the second one.
Top 10 Wired.com Reader Black-and-White Photos
Ten extraordinary black and white photographs sent to the Wired.com editorial by its readers.
Artistic yet beautiful and extremely powerful shot. Michele Clement is the winner of Black & White Spider Awards 2007 in category “Outstanding Achievement”.
This photo has been taken in South Crillon Glacier, Washburn.
Iranian film director Abbas Kiarostami on the hills surrounding the captital, where his film “Taste of Cherry”, which was co-awarded the Golden Palm in Cannes 1997, was shot.
Alison’s life in black and white photos. The significance of these pictures emerges in retrospect. “When my daughter Alison was born, in the tradition of a new parent, I began to photograph her, initially in a separate and private body of work. However, in the process of documenting Alison’s growth, I developed a passionate interest in human relationships and capturing intimate moments in the lives of family and friends.”
Alignment. Sometiems all it takes is to be at the right place in the right moment and take a shot under the right angle. That’s what happened here.
Staircase is an example of Gibson’s high-contrast, minimalist black and white compositions have influenced a generation of photographers. By isolating the essential elements of a scene, his pictures show a style that is unique and immediately recognizable. [via]
Erwitt, an advertising and journalistic photographer known for his black and white candid shots of ironic and absurd situations within everyday settings — the master of the “indecisive moment”.
Van Shnooken Raggen
Rodney Smith has his own understanding of professional black-and-white-photography. Unusual, abstract and surrealistic works.
Simple yet excellent composition. This photo manages not just to show something, but to capture a moment of life in all its beauty and vividness.
Berk-plage – France. What a sky! A really strange squadron: octopussy, teddy bear and skates.
Pedro Meyer shows the life of people across the globe. This photo was taken in Rio De Janeiro.
Mitch Dobrowner is famous due to his Earth photos.
lighting plays with geometry. Or geometry plays with lighting? The winner of the Black & White Spider Awards 2007.
Capturing the right moment at the right point of time.
Perfect timing, perfect lighting. A dreamy shot.
That’s a quite unusual perspective for a photograph.
“No peeping please!” Very powerful, emotional and somehow sad photo.
Rui Palha photographs simple people in simple situations. Result: extraordinary photos of simple things surrounding our life.
Two Tree Hill. The composition looks very surreal, yet powerful and beautiful.
G. Diaz Deleon
Ventana XIV. Geometric minimalism at its best.
Escape. Unusual angle, unusual perspective.
Struggling to survive.
Dog snout. Sometimes the moments from our life are the most valuable moments we should enjoy and keep in mind.
Mark Daniel Owen
I heart you. Do you see what we see?
Sources and Resources
- Tribute to Masters of Photography
- Black and White Photo Gallery
- 1000 B&W Flickr Pool
- Decisive Moments: Classics in B&W
- The Blanco y Negro – Black and White Flickr Pool
- Noir & Blanc
- Blue and White Excellence Moments
- Netdiver Photography
- The Art of Black and White Photography (Hard Cover)
- Ten Truly Inspiring Photographers
- Key Ingredients to Black and White Photography
- Masters of Photography Flickr