How to shoot in Black and White [Logan]

Logan is the perfect intersection of innovation, acting, story and action.

Logan’s Blu-Ray includes a Black and White version of the film. Now this got me thinking, how will that lack of colour impact the viewing experience? What exactly should filmmakers keep in mind when shooting in Colour vs Black and White?

Lets explore the techniques behind Black and White, and see how Logan will hold up in monochrome.

Theres a few rules to follow when shooting Black and White.

Use Contrast

In black and white, you can’t create contrast with colour, so you’ve gotta do it with light.
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This shot of Hugh Jackman hitting the bottle is a great example of how to do just that.

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Jackman stands in the foreground, barely lit. The background he’s blocked against
however, is much brighter. This difference in light values creates contrast. It also adds depth in this image by visually separating the foreground and background.

Here we’ve got Jackman brooding in front of a window.
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Contrast is created the same way as before, by stacking a dark subject against a bright background.

Here, the foreground, or Jackman’s face, is brightly lit, while the background falls off into darkness.

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Both Dafne Keen’s and Patrick Stewarts clips are lit the same way.
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What you’ll notice about these images too is that their backgrounds never fall off into total darkness. We don’t have actors floating in the blackness of space here.

  • Theres two lamps casting light behind Keen
  • Theres small lights illuminating the cabinet behind Stewart

Again these splashes of light create a sense of depth and also reinforcing the scene’s geography.

How do you use contrast to create a composition?

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Just look at the placement of this ray of light, it guides your focus down to Jackman carrying Stewart.
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Also notice, the small specks of light in the background.
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This fills out the composition’s negative space. The effect is kept subtle though, that way it doesn’t distract your eye from the subject.

[Fun Fact: The pattern on the background mirrors Xavier’s perception of mutants in the old Cerebro]

This is a beautiful composition as well.
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I know what you’re thinking, “Its just a car parked in the middle of nowhere.”
But take a second look.
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The sky’s brightness contrasts the shadow on the ground. The sky and the shadow also fill up large horizontal areas of the frame.
This creates a degree of symmetry, which in turn, visually balances the composition.

 Theres another quality besides contrast you should think about when shooting black and white as well. Dynamic range.

 The term refers to the difference between the brightest and darkest values in an image. Black is on one end of the spectrum, white on the other.
Shades of grey lie in between. The greater variety of grey shades in an image, the more dynamic range it has.

Dark movies like Logan tend to use a lot of contrast. If you want a less severe look however, you’ll want a wider dynamic range.

This landscape shot from Logan showcases just that. Theres both ends of the spectrum shown here.
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Theres a clean white, the sun, and a clean back, the ridge side. Then there’s all these grey shades covering the desert below. Don’t be intimidated though, composing shots with a wide dynamic range might seem complicated. After all you’re working with way more shades than you do in a contrast heavy image.

The key though is to thoughtfully place your clean whites and  blacks. These are the areas that will draw your viewer’s attention first. So, you can use these values to guide eyes through your compositions.

Now I know, for something called Black and White, the subject is surprisingly complicated and trust me, that is just the tip of the iceberg. But if you practise shooting in Black and White, you’ll master the skill and will make amazing movies which will be different from others these days. Best of luck!


5 thoughts on “How to shoot in Black and White [Logan]

  1. Movie Freak says:

    It was superb! Your insight into the way Logan Noir was made is wonderful and believe me very few people understood the importance of the B&W colouring of Logan. Your article can help the rest for sure. Cheers! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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