Photography Drawing™ (PhtD) is the method I created to process black and white photography, so I can give my images a three-dimensional look and create the illusion of reality. This method has its base in the principles of drawing and of working with light, which explains its name. I am making here a practical overview of this method for black and white fine art processing where you can learn how to apply it in 15 steps.
You can see how I apply Photography Drawing on my latest image in the Urban Saga series, Aqua Serenity, that I feature in this article.
I have drawn the inspiration to create this method from my practice in architectural and classical drawing where use light and shadow to create three-dimensional worlds on paper. You can find an extensive description of this method in my book From Basics to Fine Art – Black And White Photography, and in my recently released video tutorial and eBook Long Exposure, Architecture, Fine Art Photography – Creating (en)Visionography.
Speaking of long exposure, since this is one of the techniques I use extensively in my photography, if you want to learn it you can read my Long Exposure Photography Extensive Tutorial that is a complete guide to this fascinating technique, and you can also purchase my video tutorial I am mentioning above.
I am teaching this method in my workshops and mentoring courses online and since I’m doing this for a long time I have come to understand what the things are that help students best in applying this method, so they can get the best results. To help those who want to use this method I’m making here a synthesized description of the steps one needs to follow when processing with Photography Drawing, so you can get the best outcome.
UNDERSTANDING PHOTOGRAPHY DRAWING
WHAT IS A VOLUME
Understanding Photography Drawing in order to apply it as a black and white fine art processing method in your images, means understanding how light interacts with geometrical shapes, which in architectural terms are called volumes.
The volume is more than just a geometrical shape, it can be a complex geometrical shape, created by joining several simple geometrical shapes. It however works as an independent entity and it is perceived like that by a viewer, either he sees the volume in real life, in the form of buildings or other objects that have a form, or he sees these objects in an image.
PROCESSING BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY THE WAY DRAWERS DRAW AND PAINTERS PAINT
HOW TO WORK WITH LIGHT
What we do in Photography Drawing is what drawers and painters do in their drawings and paintings, which is influencing the perception of the viewer and the way he sees an image by using light and shadow to create a certain reality.
Drawers and painters work primarily with light. They may work with color also but the idea of volume and of three-dimensionality is created by working with light.
You can use Photography Drawing in color photography just as well as in black and white photography, but when working in black and white it is more obvious how light and shadow interact, since we do not have the colors to interfere with the idea of light intensity. For a more in-depth analysis of how to work with black and white read my complete guide black and white fine art photography.
The first thing a drawer or a painter learns is how to work with light. In my opinion, this is the first thing a photographer should learn too, in order to become creative with his photography, both in the phase of capturing the image, as well as in processing.
HOW TO WORK WITH CONTRAST
The second most important thing a drawer or a painter learns is how to work with contrast. Just like in the case of light, in my opinion, this is among the first things a photographer has to understand, so he can have control over his images.
Contrast helps to emphasize objects and it helps in delimiting them in space from one another. Both these actions are vital in black and white photography, and in any kind of photography, for that matter.
MASTERING LIGHT AND CONTRAST – THE ESSENCE OF BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY
Mastering the work with light and the work with contrast, and understanding how to use them according to the idea you want to convey, is the keystone of working with Photography Drawing and is the essence of creating black and white photography.
If you know how to put light and contrast to your service, you have done 90% of the work and all that is left is putting everything in practice through processing.
I am going to explain here how you can think and what you can do to achieve this: using light and contrast and following the principles of classical drawing to create your world in your black and white photographs.
– EDITING WORKFLOW IN 15 STEPS –
First, identify the light source in your image and think where the light is coming from. This way you will know how the light is falling on your volumes/objects.
Decide if you will keep the direction of light you captured in your RAW image or change it through processing, in order to suit your vision.
Identify the principal and secondary volumes in the image. The principal volumes should sustain your idea, while the secondary ones will create the environment for your story and enhance the message the principal objects transmit.
Study the way the more complex volumes are created from simple volumes, so you know how to separate them in space and render them to create a three-dimensional look.
Think which will be the most important element of your image (which your subject is) and subordinate everything to it.
Think which will be the least important element in your image so you make it less evident through processing.
Use brighter tones on the more important subject and darker tones on the least important. Remember that bright tones reveal the objects they are applied on and dark tones conceal them.
Create the brightest area of your image on and around your main subject and the darkest one on and around the objects you are not interested to emphasize.
Create selections of your most important volumes and surfaces (including the sky and water when you are showing them in your image) so you can work on them selectively.
Think that you have to make everything in the image look three-dimensional and you can do this by rendering the objects in your scene. You can use to do this dodge and burn, gradients, and any other painting tool available (Paintbrush etc.)
From then on it is up to you where you need to focus, where you need to add or remove light so your image has depth and looks realistic (not real but realistic), even if it is a surreal image.
Don’t forget: processing has to follow your composition and it has to have the same logic, and not negate it. We help the composition by the processing we apply, we do not go against it.
The way you will give the illusion of depth is by creating more contrast on the volumes in the foreground, or that are in front of others, and by working with less contrast on those in the background, or on those that are placed behind others.
Think that a good modality of creating contrast is by creating contrast along the edges that separate 2 objects in space. You can create this by working selectively on both objects and pair brighter surfaces with darker ones – meaning, making one surface bright and the other dark when they are separated by an edge or when they belong to objects placed one behind the other. Which surface will be brighter and which darker depends on the geometry of your image and how the volumes are laid out, and you will decide this for each case differently.
Always check the balance of light in your image and think that harmony is one of the main qualities of an image that will attract the attention of a viewer. You can create harmony through the good use of composition but also by creating a balance in the use of light.
CONCLUSION – TRANSFORMING YOUR VISION INTO REALITY
I think this will help both those who are familiar with Photography Drawing from my book or courses, as well as those who haven’t yet studied it, to see black and white fine art processing in a more clear sequence and know how to use the power of light, shadow and contrast to create in an image the world they imagine in their minds and souls.
Because it is not enough to have the vision, but also to know how to realize it in reality so to create in a viewer the same emotion you as artists felt and that led you to create in the first place.
Vision is useless if you don’t know how to put it in practice and this means much more than learning Photoshop.