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Emphasize Contrast and Tone in Black-and-White HDR Photos

High dynamic range (HDR) photography excels at emphasizing contrast — and not just in color but in black and white, too. Black-and-white photos are beautiful studies in contrast. With color removed from the photo, your eyes tune in to differences between black and white or light and dark much more readily. The result is a new and pleasing perspective.

This image is just such a case. The color photo, an interesting study in HDR, has a number of elements that pull your eyes away from the study of contrast: the inside, outside, the man sitting at the far end of the pavilion, picnic tables, and green of the trees versus the browns and grays inside.

However, the same photo converted to black and white is a concentrated study in contrast. HDR accentuates details that make contrast more interesting, but the black-and-white conversion removes distractions.

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Some people live in a world of color. But tone isn’t that black and white. Tone, in fact, is a world with nuanced shades of gray. This image is a tough one. The color version of this shot is good with the chrome, the blue sky, and rusty dump truck. But part of this photo is boring (the color of the car) and lost in a sea of other details.

In black and white, however, the story gels and becomes much more concentrated. It’s not about color anymore, but about the different levels of tone. These different components that make up the scene are no longer disjointed — thrown together by circumstance. They fit in a cohesive whole in black and white and tell a singular story.

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