on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Monochromatic Lens

Len’s Simplified System

Len Metcalf

Leonard Metcalf is the director of Len’s School located in Sydney that specialises in innovative small group offerings for dedicated amateur photographers who wish to grow. Len exhibits his photography regularly and is widely published. His intimate portraits of people and nature show a unique and very personal vision of beauty of the world though his photographic art.


Monochromatic Lens is the system I use and teach photographers wishing to explore monochrome photography. I would refer to it as Black and White Photography (as we did traditionally when we were using black and white film), but today that implies limiting ourselves from other tones and tints that give monochrome photography so much depth.

I believe in keeping things simple. Predictable and knowable. I believe that by limiting ourselves we can be more creative within the artificial walls we create.

This is a suggested starting point for you. It is my current endpoint. Well, more accurately it is the system that I use today, yesterday and will use tomorrow. This is the system I use for creating my monochrome photographs. It hasn’t changed much over the years once I got it to where it worked for me.

In the age of mirror free digital cameras with electronic viewfinders, visualisation takes on a new meaning. It is suddenly much easier to see what you are doing in the viewfinder than trying to imagine it in your head. Today I can see the monochromatic conversion, the crop, a simulated colour filter, helpful changes to contrast and sharpness, all in the viewfinder. This leads me to only consider and purchase cameras that facilitate my way of working. Unfortunately, this has knocked a few brands and many cameras off my potential shopping list, in favour of ones I can set up and use the way I prefer.

This method is very prescriptive as it is meant to help beginners and others understand my process. I suggest you give it a try and see if it works for you? Alternatively, take what interesting things I say and do, then adapt them to your own photographic procedures and workflow. I teach people to develop their own procedures and workflows. We are all different people, we all see differently, therefore it is not surprising that we all prefer to work in unique and individual ways. I encourage you to develop your own.

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