Book Review: The Art of Black and White Photography

June 26, 2008
Rajen Nair

Torsten Andress Hoffman‘s book The Art of Black and White Photography is a well-documented book covering the whole gamut of black and white photography. The book is a sort of tutorial described in simple terms with a lot of pictorial details thrown in.

The author shares his vast experience in the field of photography — a treasure trove of information and revelation to any photographer doing black and white photography. Though the book is primarily meant for those photographers specializing in B & W, there are many useful tips for photographers in general. What is unique about the book is that besides touching on professional levels of photography there are many useful tips for the amateurs. 

Apart from dwelling on B & W photography, the author also focuses on image composition and capture, and on the digital workflow. He clears the misconception that analog cameras are better suited to shoot B & W by disclosing that recent cameras in the market based on high-end technology offering 12 to 22 megapixels are good enough for excellent B & W photography. Though the latest cameras have features to shoot in B & W, the author recommends shooting images in color and then converting them to B & W in digital workflow by using the grayscale mode or the channel mix in Adobe Photoshop. 

He explains the importance of shooting in RAW mode for bring out the grey tones in B & W images and the advantage of allowing you to saving as TIFF files instead of JPEG. In analog photography, a photographer has to use color filters to get dramatic B & W images. Now with digital SLR cameras backed by advanced software such as Adobe Photoshop CS3, one can manipulate the images to get equally good results. The author also touches on other topics such as how to overcome clichéd photos, capture moods, create unusual perspectives, pictorial tension between elements, the play of forms, B & W from color and new features of Photoshop CS3. 

The book is also useful in the sense that it caters to different applications of photography such as architecture, street photography, portraiture, surreal photography with stunning B & W photography. The book illustrates the elements of photographic language differentiating creative photography from random shooting. In the last part the author highlights the role of post-processing techniques using Photoshop CS2 and CS3.

In the final analysis, it must be said the book is able to deliver what it set out to achieve, so I would recommend this book to any serious photographer as a must read book. 

A freelance photographer and writer from Mumbai.
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Temple Stark
June 26, 2008
02:27 PM

Great review. Does the author mention or discuss famous b/w photographers, such as Ansel Adams?

Do you personally take b/w photos?

Thank you. Temple

rajen nair
June 26, 2008
11:27 PM

Thanks Temple Stark, Yes the author has referred Ansel Adams work in his book. Yes I do take b/w photos and you can view my images in my website-

Temple Stark
June 27, 2008
12:40 AM

Sweet. i'll add to my site when my site is decent again.

Hit the children category - very nice photo taking.

rajen nair
June 28, 2008
02:07 AM

Thanks for addying my site to yours. Can have link to your site please.

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