This week, Neil Scott visited the club to judge our black and white print competition. Neil is a long-standing member of Edinburgh Photographic Society, and in 2016 had been listed as the 4th best monochrome photographer in the world by the Photographic Society of America. Neil began the evening by showing us some of his work and explaining what makes a good black and white image. The key points were:
- A good black and white image is not a good colour image with the colour removed. When he judges an image, Neil asks himself if the photographer had a black and white image in mind when the shot was taken.
- A black and white image relies purely on light, shade and texture. Plain backgrounds help the subject stand out. Neil prefers a strongly-contrasting, white or black background. If a subject doesn’t have a plain background (e.g. in street photography), darkening the edges can help draw your eye back into the centre.
- Most good black and white images contain black, white and shades of grey in between. Most landscape, still life and portrait images would benefit from an increase in contrast to ensure the full range of shades is included. There are some exceptions. High key portraits of women or babies look more delicate when fewer shades of black are included.
- Neil spends a great deal of time dodging and burning his black and white images, to ensure that the shadow and highlight areas retain their details.
There were 45 prints entered by 15 members, and Neil appraised each image in turn and explained his scoring system. A score of 14-15 meant a print needed some improvement. An average print would score 15-16, a good print 16-17 and a very good print 18. Scores of 19 and 20 were given to the top images in the competition. Some prints looked a bit flat and Neil recommended increasing their contrast to cover a greater range of blacks and whites. Some prints needed their shadows brightened to include more detail. There were also some subjects that were too tight in the frame (touching the edges) and could have been improved by giving them more space. As expected, some otherwise superb prints lost marks because they looked like good colour images with the colour removed. When the scores were added up the competition was very close, with the top places all decided by a single point! The top scorers in the black and white print competition were (in reverse order):
- 5th place (50 points)
- Steven Beard
- 4th place (51 points)
- Jennifer Davidson
- Anne Yeomans
- 3rd place (52 points)
- George Todd
- 2nd place (53 points)
- Joe Fowler
- 1st place (54 points)
- Mike Clark
Well done to Mike Clark, whose top image “May Contain Nuts” was backed up by two 17-point images. The top images were:
- The Dandy (Joe Fowler) – 20 points
- May Contain Nuts (Mike Clark) – 20 points
- Flightless Cormorant With Octopus (Anne Yeomans) – 19 points
- Eyeing Up The Opposition (Jennifer Davidson) – 18 points
- Taj Mahal “Before The Crowds” (George Todd) – 18 points