The Mono Awards: 10 tips from the judges
Our 2022 judges share 10 tips to improve your chances in The Mono Awards.
Surrender to lost highlights and play them off as intentional. If you pull back lost highlights, the judges will know. There were a number of photographs this year where highlights were pulled back into grey and it actually hampered the scene. Although we say, ‘Try not to lose detail in your highlights’, sometimes a crisp white is a better alternative to a muddied and artificial grey.
Subtlety is key when it comes to post-processing digital files as black-and-white images. Find historical black-and-white images that you admire, and see if you can emulate the atmosphere in these pictures through your own post processing. Ask yourself what it is about the tones and light in those historical images that you connect with.
Don’t be afraid of using large black areas in your composition – just counter it with bright contrasting whites to highlight your subject.
Many editing suites give you access to colour sliders (e.g. B&W Mix sliders in the Develop module of Lightroom), which offer a surprisingly versatile way to shape the final look of your black-and-white images by working on the different colour channels. You may need to experiment for a while to get a feel for the range of influence and impact they have, but it certainly widens your scope considerably for shaping the final image.
Generally, a good subject for monochrome images will be one that has a good solid black and a nice clean white tone. An award-winning image will show a subject in an uncommon way. It will be unique (if only for a while).
Don’t over-process, over-sharpen, or over-structure your files as this can create halos around the areas of high contrast. This indicates a lack of attention to detail and is quite distracting for a viewer.
Make sure your screen is correctly calibrated. With monochrome images, you can’t fully see the transition in the darkest greys to blacks, or the light greys to whites, if it’s not.
Create a point of difference in your work which immediately makes your images stand out above others.
Stripping colour from an image allows you to focus on the graphic elements of an image. Keep things simple by focussing on composition, framing, and use of light to communicate your themes.
Remember, nothing is impossible. You can achieve anything you choose, and reach any pinnacle you want – all that ever holds you back is the desire to do so.