Monochrome is a tool that often divides opinions. Some people think that photography is only truly worthwhile or notable when the hallowed tones of black and white are used, whether on film or through manipulation of digital images. Others believe that monochrome is old hat – a fad used only by amateurs and old photographers who can’t let go of the past. So, where does monochrome stand with landscape photography?
The truth is that, like any technique you could use, monochrome works when it works – and when used incorrectly, it doesn’t. But when it does work, it can be incredibly powerful. Here’s why you should be considering monochrome for your landscape work, and what it will do to transform your images.
The inference of importance
One key factor in monochrome photography is the fact that it is so strongly linked to film, and days of the past. When film was all that was available, and even before then to when slides were the only tool photographers could use, the number of shots that they could take was limited. If you had a roll of just 24 frames in your camera, and you knew you couldn’t get hold of any more, then you had to carefully choose what to capture with those 24 frames. Anything that wasn’t of importance would be left behind.
Not only this, but film was a physical object. You couldn’t back it up to the cloud – in fact, you couldn’t back it up at all. If it was lost, burned in a fire, exposed to a chemical spill, developed incorrectly, or even exposed to light before it was developed, then the images were gone forever. At times in the history of photography, it was also expensive to take and develop photographs, and this was another barrier which cut down on the number of photographs that have lasted through to today.