The evocative nature of good black and white photography is hard to overstate! Far from being inferior to colour photos, black and white images have a unique quality that can’t be replaced by colour. Its no wonder that shooting in black and white is still such a respected and popular artistic decision today. We’ve put together some useful tips to help you master black and white, and create powerful photos that you’ll be proud to hang on your walls!
Think in Black and White
We’re used to seeing a spectrum of colour, but good black and white photography involves visualising your subject in black and white as much as possible during the shoot. This could be a mode you have on your camera, but even so, training yourself to see light and dark rather than colour and identifying where contrast exists is a skill that will benefit your photography overall! Try looking at your subject in this way before you even pick up your camera to build your understanding of what you see.
Balance Your Contrast
The best black and white images have a good amount of contrast, but not so much that the finer details are lost. The shades of grey between white and black (values) contribute enormously to the appeal your photo will have. Not enough contrast in your values will result in a washed out, flat photo, and too much contrast will lose vital details, making the picture appear too harsh and blown out. Striking a balance with a good range of values from light to dark will make sure your picture looks it’s best.
Strong composition is the ingredient that can be the difference between a nice photo and an excellent one! Use the rule of thirds to plan your scene and identify natural focal points you can lead the eye to. Finding leading lines in your scene is especially useful for this. Shooting in black and white gives you a great opportunity to create strong silhouettes, try it with trees, buildings and people for interesting results!
Bring out Texture
Even when colour is absent, texture can be used in black and white photos to great effect! Study how your camera catches different surfaces and materials such as bark, skin, and rock, and use light to bring certain features that you want to emphasise forward. Clouds, mist and steam are also a powerful presence, helping to create atmosphere and set the mood. A black and white photo can look as soft as velvet or be extremely rough and textural, with everything in between. Don’t be afraid to experiment!
Make Use of Shadows
Shadows occur everywhere, and black and white shots are a perfect way to study them. In fact, a shadow that might be undesirable in a colour image may turn out to be stunning in black and white! Look for light that casts long, strong shadows to highlight form on objects and figures, as well as softer, more diffuse shadows that will show up as a subtle gradient in black and white. Create interesting shadow effects with directional lighting- back lighting creates silhouettes and side lighting brings out interesting contours and textures.
A few quick tips:
The same principles can apply to sepia and other monochromatic images, so feel free to get creative and use another colour!
If you’re shooting on camera, shoot in RAW rather than in JPEG for a truer black and white that is free of colour noise.
If your contrast is a little off, editing your images can often correct this. If you want to get everything perfect for framing, contact us and we’ll be happy to help make some adjustments.
Already shot in colour? Don’t worry! We have a black and white filter on our Online Photo Designer that is designed to help you maintain good contrast for a great result every time!
Once you have your beautiful black and white shots ready, don’t forget to frame them! We carry a range of frames perfectly designed to let black and white photography stand out. Upload your photos to our website and start designing!