Sunday Stills: Black and White… and Shades of Gray

Although I almost never photograph anything in black and white, sometimes I find that certain images become more interesting when they are stripped of their color. Patterns, shapes, and textures become more pronounced, and the mood of the photograph can change once the color isn’t competing for the attention of the viewer.

Succulents and other plants that have interesting structure and contrasting lights and darks work well in black and white.

Black and white can emphasize the bold, straight lines of architecture.

You can change the mood of a photograph by removing – or fading back – the color.

Strong shapes and textures translate well into black and white. Pronounced shadows can add even more interesting patterns to your image.

And, not all black and white photographs are really black and white. Although these are color images, the blacks and whites are what first caught my eye.    

I think most of us love photographs that are rich in color. Every once in a while, though, try adding shades of gray to some of your images and see if you like the results.

Do you have black and white images? Join the fun on Terri’s Sunday Stills photo prompt and see what others have shared.

Author: Janis @

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

86 thoughts on “Sunday Stills: Black and White… and Shades of Gray”

  1. Hi, Janis – These images are incredibly stunning. You have a true eye for design and deeply understand what works best for B & W photos. Each of these photos would make a wonderful framed print!

  2. These are truly “wow” photographs! I really love the photo of the bottles. I also find the succulents more dramatic in black and white. You’ve encouraged me to do some experimenting in black and white. 🙂

  3. A great phrase, Janis, “….more interesting when stripped of their colour.” The concept of “mood” is evident in black and white photos and movies. I will play with fading back the colour in my photos. The little statue (?) is very intriguing. Is there a story? The shades of gray is a concept that continues to surface in this prompt. Great photos and an interesting post, Janis!

  4. Janis, all of these photos are magnificent, but the first four were especially impressive to my eye. So many times I’ve looked at a plant and seen, well, a plant. Your photos depict plants as what they truly are – nature’s works of art. Nicely done!

  5. Fascinating monochrome images! What many people don’t know is that every simple photo editing software can change colour images into b/w.

  6. Janis, well done. For some reason, architecture seems more surreal in black and white. Thanks for the tour. Keith

      1. Agreed. I think it is the shadows. As Yogi Berra once said in his unique way about the shadows in left field at Yankee Stadium, “It gets dark early out there.” Keith

  7. I agree with the above comments, Janis! Your eye for design and contrast works incredibly well for all of these images. The stark b&w is amazing but I think my fave is the wine bottle with figurine for its kiss of color!

  8. When I took a photography class in college, everything was in black and white and I came to love what you can do with it. I find the photos more moody. Back then everything was done on film and we all developed and processed our own prints so color was out of the question.

      1. The expense and angst of developing only to find out the pictures are over/under exposed. Love digital. I have a lot of respect for the old time photographers.

  9. You explained perfectly why I love black and white photography. I do love color, too, but images are often more interesting to me in black and white. Not every image, of course. But as you said, for evoking a certain mood, or for highlighting texture or patterns, black and white is wonderful.

  10. This is a fun photography challenge, Janis, as I have seen several bloggers take it on and post their own views about this artsy twist and their own interpretations with their photographs. My favorites are your architectural ones. In nature, I usually prefer color scenes – because nature can be so vibrant. When it comes to urban themes, the B&W can really set the scene.

  11. These are great fun shots Janis and you certainly have an eye for details and have captured some great images. I love the bit of colour in the last few as it adds a whole new dimension and draws the eye in.

  12. Janis, those photos in black and white are superb. I love the architecture. Your explanations add so much to the viewing experience as well. So well done! 🙂 the chair with all the faces on the rocks. Where is that? Too funny! 🙂

        1. It looks like you and your friends had a great time there! I try to visit Balboa Park as often as I can (it’s only a few miles away). I hate to admit it… but it’s been so nice during the pandemic since the crowds are almost nonexistent. I wonder if that bronze “statue” was suppose to be Kate Sessions, the “Mother of Balboa Park.” She was a horticulturalist and landscape designer who introduced many of the trees and plants to San Diego in the late 1800s.

          1. I never thought about it, Janis, but I bet you are right. She wasn’t talking, so she didn’t share her story. My dad lived in San Diego, so I went many times over the years he lived there. It was one of his favorite places to hang out. He was a photographer, too.

  13. Hi Janis, your photos are stunning. Love the textures, the lines in the architecture, and how shadows can add more interesting patterns. Lovely post, Lauren

  14. Janis, viewing black and white images our eye sees for a better the details of the photo and not distracted by colour. Many people over do the colour.
    I enjoyed your chosen images. Architecture certainly seems more dramatic without colour.

    1. I really agree with your impression that color is over done. Just because there are “saturation” and “vibrance” editing tools doesn’t mean they have to slide all the way to the right. It’s fun to play with black and white on certain images.

      1. That’s what it is all about Janis, just having fun and having a go. I am sure even the best photographers best work is achieved by sheer chance or thinking outside the square.

  15. Very nice Janis. I have only used vintage black-and-white photos in my blog and one 1920 Model A Ford after going to an exhibition of Model A vehicles. You’ve inspired me and I’m going to try as well.

      1. You’ve inspired me Janis. I love those old photos too and when I was young, my mom sat me down and told me who every family member or friend was in the album, so that was nice.

  16. Hi, Janis — Strong, lovely photos! I particularly love the curlique — maybe an iron gate? Photography is a nice way of being present in the world and also shaping the world.

  17. I particularly like the windows with the reflected shadow of the awning and the palm leaf.
    Black and white photography has a beauty all of its own.

  18. I love your application of black and white, Janis. The textures really stand out when not overwhelmed by colors. You have inspired me to take more black and white photos myself.

      1. Good idea. Thanks! I am thinking that some of my old Mexico pictures might look good, especially the colonial architecture shots.

    1. You are right. I’ve even seen some amazing winter/snow pictures that I THOUGHT were black and white, but turned out to be color. Where I live, we don’t have the snow and gray, gray skies (not that I’m complaining) so I don’t get to take advantage of the natural black and white back drop and mood of a cold, winter day.

  19. Beautiful black and white photos, Janis! A few years ago, I wanted some black and white photos to hang up in a gray and black bathroom. I printed some photos I had taken of very old barns, sheds, and outbuildings I had taken while on el Camino de Santiago in Spain. They turned out great! I love them in B&W.

  20. Beautiful images, fantastic choices for the “fade to grey” 😉 Your desaturated images are also sublime. Fabulous post. Happy to have found your blog- cheers- Autumn Jade

  21. Amazing photos, Janis. I especially like the architectural ones because of the interesting lines and angles, and a,so that one at the bottom with the chair and faces on the rocks.


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