eBook Review: The Magic of Black & White

[tweetmeme]I’m a real fan of black and white photography — doesn’t matter if it’s film or digital. There’s just something about it that can transform a photo so drastically by the “simple” removal of color.

So I was thrilled when my buddy Andrew Gibson contacted me about the release of his book on “The Magic of Black & White“. He’s a great photographer and his black & white photos are stunning — so I was certain that the book would be a good one.

I was right.

The book is a relatively quick read, but offers up a great number of tips, techniques, and guidance for black and white photography. It’s also beautifully illustrated with a ton of Andrew’s fine art work.

See the end of this post for a chance to win a free copy of the book.

“The Magic of Black & White, Part One – Vision” can be purchased through Craft & Vision. The links in this post are affiliate links.


The Magic of Black & White is a 58 page downloadable PDF eBook. The book is intended to be viewed in a two-page format (as you can see by the dashed lines in the samples below). Throughout the book, you’ll be presented with specific topics on black & white photography and large sample photos from Andrew’s collection of work.

After a few single-page “chapters” (Introduction, Why Black & White?, The Art of Black & White, and Learning to See in Monochrome), we dive into The Elements of Black & White Photography. This section covers many topics along the lines of tonal contrast, highlights, simplicity, minimalism, complexity, shape and form, texture, lines, foreground interest, negative space, shapes and patterns, and contrast. Each topic gives thoughtful insights and supporting imagery.

From there, we move on to Light in Black & White Photography, which covers the various lighting scenarios and how to use them to your advantage. The last main section goes into Subjects for Black & White Photography, and we look at several options where black & white may make more sense than color. This is all followed up by a conclusion and final thoughts from Andrew.


Andrew Gibson is a writer and photographer based in the south of England. He works for one of the UK’s leading photography magazines and also freelances. He loves to travel and one region he’s been drawn back to time and time again is South America, in particular Argentina and the Andean regions of Bolivia and Peru. He works in a ‘fine art documentary’ style and presents most of his work in black and white.

You can find Andrew’s work at his main website or at his blog. He’s also a regular contributor at Phototuts+, Smashing Magazine, and the Fine Art Photoblog. On top of all that, he’s an employee of EOS Magazine. Busy guy!


The eBook is longer than a blog article, but shorter than a printed book. I feel that the eBook medium is perfect for what is presented. Andrew gives a great introduction to black and white photography with content that strikes a perfect balance between educational and inspirational. It’s not so technical that the beginner will be lost, and not so “artsy-fartsy” that it isn’t informative — again, it’s just a great balance.

I would personally recommend this eBook to anybody looking to explore or improve their black & white photography. It will definitely get your gears turning and probably give you a few new ideas. At the time of publishing this review, the price of the book is $5 USD (subject to change at any time), which is a steal if you ask me.

Part Two of this book (to be announced) will examine the means of creating the black and white image in the digital darkroom. I’ll update you guys when it’s published.

“The Magic of Black & White, Part One – Vision” can be purchased through Craft & Vision.


[UPDATE 03-30-2010: The contest is over, and the winners have been selected]

[tweetmeme]Andrew has also given me a coupon code for 3 free eBooks to give out! I have a feeling that this particular contest will draw quite a few entries, so I’m limiting the entry period to ONE DAY (contest will end March 30, 2010 at 8am PDT). Here’s how you can enter for a chance at a free book:

1) Submit a photo and/or link to a black and white photo you’ve taken. The photo must be your own. Bonus points for supplemental descriptions.


2) Submit a Flickr Gallery (not a set — a gallery) of black and white photos. Curate a gallery and pop the link in the comments below. Bonus points for supplemental thoughts within the gallery and/or comment.

One entry per person; only the first entry for any given person will be considered. Again, ONE DAY for entries, and I’ll post a comment of my own stating the cut-off time — so if you don’t see the cut-off comment, feel free to post an entry.

48 thoughts on “eBook Review: The Magic of Black & White

  1. Sino


    Shot at Georgioupoli, Chania, Greece with an analog Canon EOS 30, a couple of years ago.
    I was experimenting with developing my own negatives & then scanning and editing them in Photoshop.

  2. Kris Mitchell

    Film Noir?

    Revisiting an outtake from the “52 Week Project”

    Converted to Black & White using Lightroom – trying to give the overall feel of a “Film Noir” cinematic style


  3. Ethan Ho


    Took this pic on during a trip to Adelaide, South Australia
    There are all these people collecting plastic bottles & cans for recycling. Apparently in SA they will pay 5c for every can/bottle which is a fantastic idea. Too bad they don’t have it anywhere else in Australia.

    The man in this pic is somewhat old, it’s a tough life for him.

    Gear: Canon 450d, 18-200mm f3.5 kit lens
    Processing: B/W conversion in Lightroom, Additional blur in Photoshop

  4. Jenni Brehm


    about the photo:
    This tower used to house the black powder reserves of Prague. According to wikipedia, building started in 1475 and lasted for 400 years. It’s details are really breathtaking (I’ll have some photos of the details, too).

    For this photo I combined three exposures to an HDR and then converted it to a black & White

    Great idea for a contest Brian!

  5. Johnathan Clover

    Taken from Huntington Beach pier, teh colour version was a little flat as it was so overcast but the B&W conversion really brought out the texture and power of the wave and water. The picture is definately better viewed large as there is so much detail in the wave that gets lost on the smaller version.

    Conversion was done in lightroom, boosted contrast and blacks to define ripples more and used adjustment brush to bring back blownout detail in the whitewater.


  6. Mat Schencks


    Coverted this shot to B+W which seemed to add so much more life to the image. Have found the B+W conversion can save quite a few shots, now I look for shots that would work in B+W right from the start.

  7. jdubj

    Mother and daughter portrait. The daughter had a port-wine stain birthmark on her cheek that just came out very bright purple on all coloured images and although there is no problem showing it nevertheless it detracted from the subject in this photo of mother-daughter love by drawing the eye.
    So i desaturated and both I and the subjects were very happy with the result.

  8. Stefano


    I’m particularly happy with this photo, as it is part of the very first self-developed black and white roll. I did it yesterday and I’m so excited about the results! I sense I just scraped the surface of black and white photography, and can’t wait to deepen my knowledge of this magic world!

    This was taken on a HP5+ film, using a Pentax MX camera with a 77mm lens.

  9. Dave Speicher

    God and Country

    Shot with a Canon XTi, ISO-100, f6.7, 1/1000 and converted to B&W in PS-CS3. This is a small church and cemetery near Wake Forest, NC and honors local veterans who paid the ultimate price.

  10. SaraJ


    Shot at the Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo, NC. The Gardens are gorgeous and provide lots of opportunities for great plant photos, but I particularly liked the way this one came out. The brightness of the white flower against the darker background of the leaves (I made no adjustments except to convert it to B/W, as I recall) feels so happy and hopeful to me, like a less literal interpretation of a ray of sunshine through the clouds. It’s one of my favorite shots I’ve ever taken, and I’m sort of proud of having gotten it with a little PowerShot, since my husband had appropriated our EOS10D at the time.

    (Click photo to go to the photo in my Zenfolio space where EXIF info is available.)

  11. Russell

    Looks like a good read!


    This is a picture of Peek-A-Boo slot canyon year Escalante, Utah. I actually set up my tripod against the walls of the canyon to get a narrow aperture and lots of DOF.

  12. OJ Photography

    Here is one of my Black and White photos!


    Shot with my Nikon D80 and my faithful 50mm in sunny North Carolina. These three siblings could play all day and had so much fun together!

  13. Miachelle DePiano

    This is the hood ornament of a 1941 Chevrolet called Ruby. I converted it to black and white in the processing and then added a filter effect to give it a more surreal quality.

  14. Trevor Carpenter


    So, this simple portrait of my wife, Deanna, turned out quite lovely. I really do cherish this photo of her. It captures her beauty amazingly well. I love how the depth of field directs you right up to her eyes, which just pop quite nicely.

  15. jerry deese


    I always come back to this photo as one of my favorite B&W shots. The expression alone easily makes this one of the best candid photos I have ever taken of one of our children. We will now never forget how amazed she was experiencing her very first snowfall.

  16. Frans Hoynck

    This is our travelling companion Arie Visser, making up for his (first) check dive in the Brayka house reef in Marsa Alam (Egypt). Arie is one of our pensionados, but a scuba diver of the first hour, he’s diving already for decades & started in an era when you had to fix everything your selves, including most of the equipment. He’s most fond of diving on ship wrecks in the Northsea – and there are hundreds. I suppose he has seen them nearly all.
    If you meet him, don’t show any interest in diving! Because you’re burried in an avelange of stories and you won’t make it home in time for dinner.
    The ‘modern equipment’ he is dressed with on this photo is of course rented at the diving centre in Egypt. But the ring you see on his little finger is an omen he always wears, an antiquity found on one of his wreck dives long time ago.

  17. Brent W


    This is what’s left of the Pesuta. A 264 foot log carrier, that came aground in 1928 on the northeast shore of Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands).

    Captured with a Rebel XTi & Canon 17 – 85mm lens w/polarizer … converted to b&w in PS.

  18. Mike

    Shot with my Mamiya C220. It’s just a blessing for a photographer to see his wife looking for good light when she has to put on her make-up ;-) . This was one of my first scans with a test scanner (poor test results). When the new scanner arrives, this is one to re-scan.

  19. Scott Carles


    Asclepias – Milkweed – pod bursting with seeds. Comes from a set of four shots of the plant.

    Shot with Olympus E-510 and converted to B&W using Lightroom 2.

  20. Wani

    Here’s Looking At You Kid!


    This cutie lives in the Lion Park in Joburg, South Africa. We were heading out of the gate after a long day and stopped to take one last pic of this tall fella. We thought he would run away but he just stood there staring at us for a couple of minutes and then sauntered off.

    Way too cute. :-)

  21. Gregory Tran


    shot this candid on a subway platform in nyc late one evening… took me a little to gather the courage to kneel down right in front of these guys but i’m glad i eventually shot it…

    taken w canon xsi + 50mm/1.4

  22. Matthew


    This photo was taken by Lake Baikal in Russia. There were some nice blues, but the contrast of the tree and the interesting textures of the clouds made me turn the photo b&w.

  23. Iza

    I thought I publish black and white images on my blog quite regularly, but when it came to pick one to post here, there was hardly anything to chose from. Thanks goodnes for Lightroom filters capabilities ;), there were some more residing in my library.
    I chose the image I took a couple of years ago on our annual trip to New York. I love how the light is being reflected from the low hanging clouds over the city.
    In a sense it is also one of those images which are naturally black and white, and desaturation of colors in software is just to clean and accent the forms in the photograph.

  24. Brandon Price


    One thing I’ve tried to do more recently is to actually approach people and take their portraits, even at the sake of an awkward situation. I hate missed photo opportunities, so I’m trying to fix that.

    A friend of mine showed up at an event recently looking like this. So unique, and so perfectly black and white. I was so excited and told him we were going to take pictures. I led him to an alley and we had a makeshift photo session. Lubbock, Texas

  25. Jonathan Taylor


    This was for a Digital Photography School contest. Something about this frame and Tiffany style lamp just evokes a nostalgic feeling in me. Nostalgia is appropriate, though, as that picture in that frame is of me and my wife from over 12 years ago.

  26. Sharon

    I am a beginning photography student who decided to dive in head first and started a Project 365 the first of January. I’m on Day 88 and I’m still lovin’ it!

    I saw this park bench and couldn’t resist it. My boyfriend saw me slumped back trying to grab the shot and couldn’t believe that I would stop to take a picture of a bench. This is one of my favorite photographs because it is reminiscent of a European bench when, in fact, I shot this in Santa Barbara after a rainstorm.

  27. Pingback: Three Black & White eBook Winners

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