Category Archives: Assignment 3 – Monochrome

Assignment 3: Monochrome

Choose a theme or subject that you will conceive, shoot and process in black and white, attempting to bring our the monochrome images qualities of form, tonal contrast and texture, perhaps even experimenting with key.  You should choose between 5 and 10 images.

As previously mentioned I’ve been studying the work of monochrome photographers whose work predominantly focuses around landscapes. I decided to go with urban landscapes/architecture. I was torn between this and a studio shoot, but wanted to seek out my subjects rather than create them. I wanted scenes that I had to work WITH rather than control.

The whole shoot was shot in RAW – which means I shot in colour, converting it later in post processing. I had several different subjects, so created contact sheets for each to help me whittle down my favourites. I then had to convert my Nikon (NEF) RAW files into TIFFs (Photoshop does not recognise the Nikon file format) to begin processing. Once finished, the files were converted to JPEG format, as it reduces the overall file size.

I originally wanted to include a long exposure shot, but was unable to fulfil this as I was missing a vital piece of equipment. However, after some careful research I discovered that you can apply the same kind of effect obtained through long exposure photography using editing software.



Often in black and white photography the subject fills the entire frame, and that was something I was aware of when I found this scene. The abstract feel is actually created by two buildings reflecting the light source coming from above (the middle triangle at the top centre of the image) I was instantly captivated by the multitudes of lines, and the angles at which they criss-cross. The only editing that I wanted to add to this image was to increase the contrast slightly, to really make the black and white tones stand out. I wanted to avoid ‘greys’ as much as possible.

City Hall Steps:


I was aware that for most of my shoot I was looking up, so when I came across these steps I had the opportunity to shoot downwards. Filling the whole frame with the steps implies a sense of continuity. There’s no obvious sign of where the steps start and finish. Technically speaking all I did was darken the shadows and add a bit of contrast – I wanted the steps to have a slightly grungy feel, as they had several different tones and textures (mainly from pollution and wear and tear) but I wanted these tones to be apparent.

The Shard:


The Shard is one of London’s most recent architectural wonders. It stands so high that unless you are shooting it from very far back, there’s not much else you get into the shot while trying to include most of it! I purposely shot this image when it was cloudy as I wanted a moodier sky – with the dense cloud present it adds a dramatic feel, and with a slightly longer shutter speed I’ve captured a tiny bit of movement with the clouds. (It was a very windy day which helped) I purposely rotated my camera to produce an interesting angle, that results in the tip of The Shard being just off centre.



This is a very simplistic shot, but I loved how the windows reflected the sky and clouds so vividly. Simplicity seems to be very effective when shooting in black-and-white, as the ‘Steps’ image also demonstrates. I like the strong lines, especially the line at the top of the building. Had the cloud not have been present this image would not have worked half as well. The moodiness of the sky is enhanced by it being reflected, and not only visible in the small proportion of sky in the image. Editing-wise I’ve hardly done anything, as I captured it just how I wanted it to be.

Up and Up:


This is probably my favourite photo of this selection. It has an abstract edge which I feel works so well in black-and-white. The building on the left had an interesting staggered effect to its windows and was very dark and sombre. The triangular gap on the right removes any sense of symmetry and breaks the shot up. The bright sky is a great contrast to the building, and I especially like the subtle reflection off the windows at the top of the right hand building. It almost creates a vignette effect. I didn’t alter much in the processing stage, mainly brightening the sky so it worked as a strong contrast to the black tones of the building on the left. I wanted to keep the buildings on the right grey to add depth.


Assessment criteria

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills

Firstly, I really enjoyed this assignment. I realised very early on that I was looking for lines, overlapping structures, textures, and shadows. My subject was not necessarily a subject per se, rather an amalgamation of angles and lines.

With black and white photography the subject can often be an everyday object that one might not consider interesting enough to produce a thought provoking photograph, i.e steps. Filling the frame with certain subjects can work to the photographer’s advantage as it creates pattern and continuity. Removing colour from any picture makes the viewer focus predominantly on everything BUT colour – shadows, shape, form, texture and depth.

Quality of Outcome content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas

From the start of the preparation stage of this assignment I wanted to produce a series of photographs that had an abstract feel to them. I feel I have applied my newly learnt knowledge, obtained through previous exercises, to this assignment. I shot in manual mode – therefore having full control over all of my crucial settings – ISO, shutter speed, white balance, aperture, exposure and so on. Although a somewhat short assignment, I feel it is concise, strong, and fulfils the brief.

These images are the first set that I’ve considered to be suitable for printing and framing. I think they’d make a great selection of large wall prints.

Demonstration of Creativity imagination, experimentation, invention, development of personal voice

This is the first assignment of this module in which I was able to explore my personal style. It enabled me to be creative and imaginative, and to experiment with subjects, angles, positioning of the camera, post processing, and develop my own style. As the brief was so open-ended it made it much easier to play around with a multitude of ideas; some good, some bad.

Context reflection, research, critical thinking (learning log)

I’m very happy with how my series of monochrome images turned out. I feel there is a sense of simplicity to them, but also a sense of interest, and I think my creativity is evident. They work strongly together as a collection of photographs.

After a discussion with my tutor we decided to fine tune my final selection to my 5 strongest images. I realise that sometimes less is more, and that the final 5 images are the strongest, most interesting and abstract ones from the shoot. I should not be wary of submitting fewer stronger shots instead of the maximum number required in the brief.

I had chosen one of the busiest parts of central London. My subjects worked very well, but trying to eliminate people from my shots (where necessary) did prove to be somewhat difficult, but by no means impossible. Patience and initiative were key in this assignment. I could have changed my location to a quieter part of town and looked for interesting objects to photograph, however, the challenge this produced was highly motivating. I feel I have produced some great shots of a similar, consistent style.



Assignment 3: Preparation Part 2

Almost immediately into this assignment i’ve hit a hurdle… After researching long exposure shots i’ve realised that to get the desired shot i’ve imagined I am unfortunately missing a vital part of equipment. A neutral density filter.

While long exposure shots can be relatively easy to accomplish at night time (you can use most lenses, but a tripod is vital), it’s a very different story when it comes to daytime. This is perhaps a rookie error on my behalf, as we have learnt that a slower shutter speed results in a longer time period for the light to hit the sensor, often resulting in over exposed shots.

Shooting the scene I want to shoot in bright daylight without a neutral density filter is going to produce severely over exposed images.

It’s not a huge problem however, it just means that for this assignment I will not be including the long exposure shot I’d hoped for. I could shoot at night, but for this assignment I don’t feel I’d get the right kind of image that represents  ‘monochrome’ as night shoots would not include so many shades of grey, but mainly strong blacks and street lighting.

What I especially like about a long exposure shot is that in some cases you can eliminate people/traffic from the photo (if the exposure is long enough) resulting in eerie deserted scenes.

So, first on my list for new equipment will be a variable neutral density filter, so I can experiment with daytime long exposures.

Assignment 3: Preparation

After studying the work of Michael Kenna especially, I want to experiment with long exposure photography. I’ve decided that I will attempt to incorporate at least one long exposure shot in my assessment.

We’ve learnt throughout this part of the course that the key to monochrome photography concentrates on shape, form and texture predominantly. I’ve decided on an architectural theme as I think there’s a lot of scope for producing interesting photographs, and it allows for a great range of subjects. I will try to ignore colour as best as I can when viewing possible objects, although it is worth being aware of how colours convert to black-and-white, and also the control over altering the hues later on in post processing. I’m mainly looking for interesting shapes and varying textures. I’m not too concerned with different weather conditions as I think the weather could work to my advantage. Heavy clouds will add a dramatic mood, as will rain (although i’m hoping it won’t) and a clear sky can often convert in an interesting way – it can provide great contrast for the object itself.

We’ve not studied long exposure in depth at this stage, but we’ve touched on the different effects resulting from altering shutter speed. I’m aiming to shoot RAW and in manual mode to grant me full control over my Nikon.

As with every photographic task I’ve taken all the necessary steps for carrying out an organised and well structured shoot, as we studied earlier in the Part 1: Workflow.