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Life in Black and White

This assignment ran from May 14 to Jun 4, 2018.

Editor’s Note: Please try and capture new images for this assignment. Images published in previous assignments will not be selected for the final story.

Lately, while curating your daily uploads, I have noticed a lot of beautiful black-and-white photographs. They’ve inspired me to make more black-and-white images myself, and then I realized a black-and-white assignment would be a great way to shift gears and view our world differently—especially on the heels of the “Pop of Color” assignment.

To get started, I want you to imagine your everyday life without color. What do you see? How do you see differently? The world takes on a different look and feel when you don’t rely on color to tell a story within your frame. Black-and-white often strips the frame to its core, focusing the viewer’s attention on the light, composition, and moment. Images without color become a study of light, texture, and layers. Your eye will have to look for how light separates the layers in your photograph because, without color, they can sometimes disappear.

Of course, it would be easy to reach back into your archive and slap a black-and-white filter on an old image before submitting it. But that doesn’t always work for an image, and I’m encouraging you to challenge yourself to make new photographs in black-and-white. While this assignment is running, I’m setting a personal challenge to make new images on my phone in only black-and-white.

Successful submissions to this assignment will include great use of light, well-toned images, and exceptional moments. Ideally, you also want to maintain detail in both tones. Keep your eye focused on the light in your frame and make sure you’re using the quality of light to your full advantage.

Tell everyday stories in black-and-white. Show me your landscapes, your portraits, your commute, your pets, your family, your travel, your wildlife, your city, your big moments, your quiet moments, your life in black-and-white. Good luck, have fun, and enjoy the challenge of seeing the world a little differently!

Curated by:

Kristen McNicholas
Associate Photo Editor, Nat Geo Your Shot
Assignment Status
  • Open

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  • Closed

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  • Published

    Once the submission period is over, we'll review all contributions and select our favorite images to be included in the story. Learn more.
Published Jun 20, 2018.
Thank you for your contributions!

New Your Shot Assignment: "Not Just A Face"

Posted jul 2, 2018

Hey folks -

In case you missed it, National Geographic photographer Maggie Steber is currently curating a Your Shot assignment called "Not Just A Face.” I hope you all consider participating!

Kristen McNicholas
Associate Photo Editor, Your Shot

June Mailbag Open!

Posted jun 7, 2018

Hi all!

I wanted to let you all know that our June mailbag has reopened for the questions you have been itching to ask our team! Here you can read the April and May mailbags so you can pose new questions for us that we have not already addressed. Looking forward to your questions that we will answer later this month.

Stay tuned for the Life in Black and White story, I think you will all enjoy the journey of grays, whites and blacks!

- Kristen

Editor's Update #02

Posted jun 1, 2018

Hi everyone! I hope you all enjoyed this assignment. For the final weekend, I posed a question in the discussion board for your consideration.

It is the most recent pinned comment in the board and I would love to start a conversation around this assignment! Check it out. 

Photos of the Week Series

Posted may 21, 2018

Hello all! 

I just wanted to take a quick second to shout-out the community members featured in last week's Photos of the Week Series. Last week was special because it featured preliminary daily upload edits from Matt Adams, David Y. Lee and myself! Our community is constantly surprising us and it's always an honor to see the stories you all are sharing with us.

Be on the look out for the Pop of Color story this week, I'm so excited for you all to see it. 

Happy photographing!

- Kristen

Editor's Update #01

Posted may 18, 2018

Hi everyone, after returning from some time off I’m really excited to follow up Pop of Color with Life in Black and White!

First, I encourage you all to use the discussion board to solicit feedback before you make your 3 submissions. Constructive feedback will help you select your best black and white images for the assignment and there is no rush to use all of your allotted submissions right away.

Second, I want to shout out member Jean-Baptiste B. for sharing a lovely list on the board of fellow members from around the world he thinks has photographs that would fit the assignment. That’s what this community is all about: supporting each other to make our best photographs. I pinned his comment so that you all can take a look! Bravo, Jean-Baptiste! 

Regarding “well-toned” images from my introduction, I want to encourage you all to focus on creating images that are properly exposed. Of course, if you are intentionally over or under-exposing, that is absolutely welcome because it is your vision. Remember that layers get easily lost in some black and white photographs and your exposure will be the first foundation of a successful image. You don’t want your image to fall flat. A flat image might be too gray, a little dull or simply might not have enough contrast between the whites and blacks.

I think photographing for black and white is a true exercise in story-telling with light. I’ll admit, sometimes it can be a little tricky but this assignment will be great practice for us all, myself included! I’ve been sharing my Instagram stories in black and white (I love the “Tokyo” filter for stories because it has the amount of contrast I want). Photos that I’m posting to Instagram during the assignment are being toned on my Google Pixel, with the phone’s native editing software. Unfortunately, since I’m a mobile photographer I was disappointed to see I can’t leave my camera in black and white so I’ve been making my images in color, but planning them in black and white while I make the photograph.

Besides Jean-Baptiste’s comment, I also pinned one of my own to pose a couple questions for you all so check those both out.

Happy photographing!

Kristen McNicholas

Kristen McNicholas

Associate Photo Editor, Nat Geo Your Shot
Kristen is an Associate Photo Editor with the Your Shot team. She interned at the White House Photo Office under the Obama Administration as well as Education Week. A proud RIT alumna, dessert enthusiast and Finger Lakes, NY native, Kristen is excited to guide your photographic journey!