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Getting Dramatic with Black & White Portraiture

Lately I have been finding my photographic tastes running more and more to black & white in my portrait photography.  It just seems that the images I like the best, lately, have more power when I produce them in B&W.

 (Doug Pruden)

It is should not surprise me that I am trending towards this style, especially since one of my photographic heroes is Yousuf Karsh.  His dramatic style has produced some of the most iconic portraits of famous people I have ever seen.  I never tire of his work and find it inspiring.

Not that my work even approaches that of Mr. Karsh.  I still have a long way to go in that regard.  I still find that the black & white treatment allows for us to see the contours of the face and the power in the eyes more so than colour.  Karsh’s work, of course, goes beyond mere lighting and technique.  He managed to capture something of the spirit of his subject, allowing us to feel that we know more about that person after having viewed their portrait.  I would love to be able to produce those kinds of images in my work.

The portrait above is of Susie, a local squash professional here in Calgary.  Originally from England, she has made a name for herself by becoming one of the top ranking squash players in Canada, as well as being a well respected teaching professional.  For this image I was trying to capture the intensity of her formidable squash playing.  How did I do?

This image was taken using a Nikon D300 at ISO 400.  Shutter speed was 1/250s and aperture was f/7.1 using a Sigma 24-70 f2.8 lens at 70mm.  Two gridded speed lights at 1/16 power were used behind her on either side and the main light was a firefly beauty light fixture on a SB900 speed light using iTTL.  Post processing was done in Aperture 3.2, onOne’s Perfect Portrait, and Nik’s Silver Efex was used for black & white conversion.

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One thought on “Getting Dramatic with Black & White Portraiture

  1. Nicholas Fiennes says:

    Hey Doug, I’ve been drawn to mono recently as well. There’s something special about an image that has no colour influence.

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