Tag: monochrome

The Power of Seeing Monochrome: Tones of Black and White

Colors have a way to give you a bright and cheerful feeling. There is just something about a photo that speaks colors. It brings out that energy and brightens up your day with it. Did you know that even photos in Black and White/Monochrome can intrigue you?


Black and White definitely gives you a retro feeling of the olden days, when photographers like Andre Kertesz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Fan Ho created wonderful artistic memories. At the same time, in current times you will find many photographers including myself, trying to experiment shooting or even editing in Black and White to create a different moment with a touch of the past.

How do we find the right photo to edit in Black and White? Or maybe capture a moment in Black and White?

In a recent assignment titled “Cities in Black and White” on National Geographic by Matt Adams, I tried to experiment and submit to the assignment. We were allowed to edit photos into black and white. In the assignment, Matt gave us a guide as to what to see or how to find the right photo to edit. It was not easy to choose the colored photos to transform them in Black and White yet, it was a fun learning experience. It has also continued to help and guide me to keep improving and trying out various edits to get the right tones of Black and White.


Seeing through black and white can be a challenge but it can be simple. We have been quite accustomed to having the option of shooting in color that when looking at black and white it feels too plain. It is in that simplicity that many great moments have been created in the past and even today.

The photo above has been shot in pure black and white. There was the “Weekend Hashtag Project WHP” on Instagram at the time titled “Shadows and Light” if I recall correctly. This project helped me to experiment capturing in black and white. I saw the chair and the sunlight during the day was pretty good to create a shadow effect. From a particular angle, I captured the shot, to portray the serenity of the moment using the chair as my object.

We now turn to comparing between color and monochrome photos to see how editing and conversion can also bring out a good black and white tone to photos.



This prominent red colored photo of an art gallery brings the moment to life with the red, the artwork and the structures. I chose this photo to transform it into black and white. As you will see once transformed, there is a completely new sense of the moment. Everything is the same the artwork, structure, and perspective. We can’t say that color is missing as the essence is the same. It is now just a matter of personal preference.



In this photo, the raindrops with the bluish green background bring the raindrops to life with every detail of it. After we convert it to black and white we can see not just the raindrops are alive but every single aspect of the photo is visible. There is complete clarity. The black and white is my personal preference as it defines what I wanted to capture the moment.



Walking around Patan Durbar Square, Nepal this scene was quite pleasant. The details of the wonderful palace building with the sunlight blue skies and people walking around created a lovely moment. Capturing this in color and after a while transforming it to black and white, made the moment feel more captivating. The details of every aspect pop out more through monochromatic tones.



The insides of Patan Museum, Nepal was a feast for the eyes. The architecture and intricacy kept me fascinated looking for various aspects to capture this royal beauty. As we entered, without thinking I just clicked this scene of the girl standing and people sitting around. After completing the National Geographic assignment, I tried experimenting by converting this image to black and white and turns out the transformed version is much better. It focuses completely on the girl standing thus, creating a complete moment around it.


This moment was another pure black and white capture inside a Cathedral. The lighting inside was perfect to bring out the details and the black and white tones defined this moment entirely.



Lastly, through this patterned inside ground of Istiqlal Mosque, we can see how the colors combined with the skies form symmetry. Patterns can help to define black and white tones in moments more. Changing the image to black and white gives it a refined touch where all the lines and structure come in harmony together.

There is no perfect combination or formula to doing it right, just simply practicing. Fan Ho said, “it was always his goal to wait for the lighting and composition to fall into place when photographing.” That could be our benchmark when capturing in monochrome. As for editing, there could be many things we can take into consideration like patterns, structure, architecture or even people. It really all depends on finding the right balance and tones to convert it. Requires a lot of trial and error to get what you are looking for in the photo.


Monochrome will continue to be something we experiment on as we do not have the limit of films and that is what makes it a challenge. The questions of how did they do it in the past? How did they learn the balance of composition? The simplicity and limit enhanced their creativity to get it right. They were able to capture the essence of what composition is not quickly, but smoothly. With color, it can feel like we have more distractions when focusing on an object or moment. Both has its positives, eventually, the choice is ours to make and create photos to share and inspire.

Photographer interview: A Time with the Talented Marvel Harris

What inspired you to start taking photographs?

I bought my first camera at the age of sixteen. I started photography with self-portraits, to capture my own emotions which I found hard to deal with and difficult to talk about. While growing older, my passion to capture the vulnerable parts of myself and other people only grew. I have been battling with mental illness since the age of twelve and taking self-portraits and showing them to my parents has helped me to communicate.

I have always wanted to help others by being open about my own struggles. At first, I found it extremely scary to capture my own vulnerabilities and to share the pictures that I took of myself on Social Media, but I got such sweet private messages from people, telling me that I have helped them, that it motivated me to keep creating what I love to create and love to do.

You take stunning images of other people. What do you look for in a model?

Thank you! When I capture the imperfections and vulnerabilities of people other than myself, I want to let them feel that painful feelings can become more bearable when you share them with others. I noticed that sharing my own story made me feel less alone. Together with my models, I want to tell a story and make the invisible visible.


Who are your favorite artists and how have they influenced your work?

Lots of photographers have influenced my work and Facebook has helped me to get in contact with some of them. People like Ines Rehberger, Joel Robison, Laura Zalenga and Taya Iv are an inspiration to me, because they tell wonderful stories with their beautiful and outstanding images; they motivated me to capture my own stories and in my own way.

Your self-portraits are incredibly honest and touching. What does a typical self-portrait shoots look like?

Right now I am working on a project called ‘Inner Journey’ and the pictures for that series are currently taken with my Fujifilm X70. The series is about mental illness, self-love, self-acceptance and my struggle with gender identity.

I also have a Canon EOS 7D and I use a tripod to hold my camera and a remote to handle long-distance shots instead of a timer. When I grab my camera to take self-portraits, it’s mostly when I don’t know how to deal with feelings such as anxiety, emptiness, loneliness or being desperate about the future. After capturing emotions like that and after editing the picture in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop, I can look at myself from a distance and stop my negative thoughts from spiraling out of control; self-portraiture helps me to feel able to breathe again after an episode like that.

As you can see, photography is therapeutic to me and I think that’s why my self-portraits are as honest and raw as they are.


If you could photograph anyone in the world, who would it be?

I don’t have any specific person in mind. To me, it really doesn’t matter who sits in front of my camera, but if I am able to tell a story together with the person in front of my camera.

But I would love to meet the photographers that inspire me, so we can take pictures together.

What has been the most challenging creative obstacle in your life so far, and how did you overcome it?

Taking pictures with light different from natural light. Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone, how scary this may seem, and experiment with things different from what you are used to doing.

For me that was experimenting with hard light and hard shadows. Eventually, I found my way in there and came to the conclusion that it can also be fun to step out of your comfort zone and to explore new things.


When you’re faced with a creative block, what do you do?

I will start writing in my journal, because I am more connected with myself when I write; when I am more connected with myself, it will be easier to find the inspiration to start shooting again.

If you could give your younger self one piece of photography-related advice, what would it be?

Keep trying and experimenting and never stop creating because people don’t like your work. When people say left, go right for once and see where you will end. Try to improve yourself every moment and follow your own path by doing what you love the most.


You have a rich collection of black & white photos in your portfolio. What do you love most about monochrome photography?

We don’t see the world in black and white, but when you are fighting against a mental illness the world seems like it has lost all its colors; it seems dark.

I think when you are focusing on capturing emotions, that you are more drawn to the subject when shooting in black and white; looking into someone’s eyes, without being distracted by all the different colors, can provide a stronger emotional connection.

What, in your opinion, is the most important thing an aspiring photographer should know?

Stay true to yourself and create your own style. Accept criticism and ask people for constructive feedback, but don’t apply blindly. Never compare your own journey with the journey of someone else, because you are unique and life is a long journey of self-discovery.

marvel harris


You can find more of Marvel’s work on her website, Facebook, and Instagram