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Black and white pictures have that old-fashioned feel so work best with rustic subjects such as old fences and rundown farm equipment. A portrait of an elderly person showing the creases and lines on their aging face has a greater visual impact in black and white than in color.
One way to avoid dead spaces is to use the rule of thirds. Divide the photo frame into horizontal and vertical thirds. As opposed to having the desired subject at the center of the photo, place it at the intersection of any two of these dividing lines.
An elderly man smoking a cigarette in his home in Hoi An, Vietnam. Converting from colour to monochrome helped define the wrinkles on his face to create interesting textures. Underexposing the background eliminated any unwanted distractions.
Fujfilm X100S, fixed 35mm lens. 1/800s @ f2, ISO 400. Monochrome conversion, contrast and clarity adjusted in Adobe Lightroom. 3) Think about tonal contrast
About DrewDrew Hopper is a travel and landscape photographer based in Australia, specialising in the Asia-Pacific region. See more of his images at drewhopperphotography.com
Even when you think you have developed a signature style, there is no end to learning as a black and white photographer. Be your own harshest critic. Shoot half a dozen images every day. Even if you are not a full-time photographer, this is something you can schedule into your day since each photo will probably require only a couple of seconds.
The following are vital tips for creating memorable black and white photos.
When composing your photo frame in readiness for the shot, steer clear of large areas of white or black. Viewers often perceive these parts of the photo as dead spaces that are a distraction from the primary subject.
Few things play as important a role in the quality of a photo as the light. To set the stage for an exceptional black and white picture, start with looking for finding and understanding the light.
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One thing you’ll notice about these 20 tips is the emphasis on a creative approach rather than camera techniques and settings. Black and white pictures require the same technical expertise as color photography. If you are already adept at taking color photos, you won’t have to significantly change the way you use your camera. What you’ll need to reevaluate is how you view the subject.
Flat light doesn’t have a large range of exposure so you are forced to examine the elements of the scene and focus on one or more deep tones that will grab viewers’ attention. It hides detail and skin imperfections which is one of the reasons flat light is widely used in beauty and fashion photography.
There will be times when after shooting a photo in black and white, the final product doesn’t turn out as well as you thought it would. For some photos, color is essential. By shooting it in RAW, you’ll have the opportunity to revert to color if the monochromatic image isn’t up to the expected standard.
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Love, hate, jealousy, admiration, depression, and elation were all narrated using light. If you are just getting started on black and white photography, these old movies are a quick way to understand what works and what doesn’t. Explore, learn and incorporate these techniques into your own photos.
Understanding the core principles of good photography is fundamental but shouldn’t stifle your own creativity and style. You’ll likely develop an over-arching technique to your black and white photos which may vary slightly from one photo to the next depending on the picture’s subject.
Yet, monochromatic photos eventually made a strong resurgence. That’s because, in many instances, these photos look even more captivating and stunning than their color equivalent. Color can be a distraction from the core story a photo tells us. Removing it helps draw the viewer’s focus on the subject and emotion of the image.
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Black and white photographs are typically composed of a range of gray tones. A strictly black and white photograph is an exception. Yet, absolute colors are an important starting point in creating a memorable photo.
I took an image in 2016, in Kolkata, India. The old Classic Ambassadors are an icon of the past, however when I converted to monochrome it took on a whole other level. It could have well worked in colour, but in black and white it really encapsulates life before the present. When you start to envision your subjects, think how you want your audience to respond or feel, as this will help envision a shot and give your images a quality that you may have never imagined. ❂
There are a lot of inviting scenes around you that are good candidates for a great black and white picture. You’ll pick them out more if you visualize them in the context of underexposure. By underexposing, you can push the colors to black, white and gray, and lead the viewer’s eye through the frame.
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It is only when you reach for your editing tools that you start to realize that it wasn’t a good idea in the first place. As a general rule, scenes that have just 2 or 3 colors likely won’t look good when converted to a black and white picture.
Ivan, the photographer working for Moose, explains: “I do commercial work in the photo studio equipped with to notch Profoto light and virtually infinite supply of the light modifiers. However, when in a studio, time is money. The whole team is waiting for you: the models, MUA, and post-production. You must be as efficient as possible. Therefore, sometimes I rent the light equipment to practice on my own. Also, I’ve purchased some cheap stuff, reflectors and chroma key backdrops, and spend a day once in a while trying to reproduce the results on cheap.”
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Cold and misty morning by Howrah Bridge in Kolkata, India. The old Classic Ambassadors in black and white really capture the essence of India, in an almost timeless manner. It could have been taken in any era.
Canon 6D, Canon 24-105mm f/4 lens @ 88mm. 1/200s @ f4.5, ISO 400, handheld.
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You can also take a journey through time by visiting a local bookstore or library to discover the works of past photographers. One artist you may want to pay special attention to is Ansel Adams. His approach was so refined that he’s considered one of the best photographers of all time. Other notable black and white picture artists are Arnold Newman, Duane Michals, Vivian Meier, David Bailey, Paolo Reversi, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Jerry Uelsmann.
Sadhu standing on the steps of the River Ganges, feeding the birds in Varanasi, India. The sun was rising behind him which created a nice deep silhouette for a black and white shot. Canon 6D, Canon 16-35mm f2.
8 lens @ 35mm. 1/800s @ f5.6, ISO 400. Monochrome conversion, contrast and levels adjusted in Adobe Lightroom. 7) Visions of the past
Thinking in black and white is crucial if you want to use filters successfully. It takes plenty of learning, practice, and failures to eventually get it right.
There’s no magic workflow of a template that will work for every black and white image. Varying black and white depth, and shades of gray means you cannot apply the same technique to all black and white photographs. How you treat landscape photos isn’t the same as how you’ll handle landscape pictures.
Flat light is the antithesis of directional light. It produces little to no contrast between shadows and highlights and is often viewed as making pictures appear boring, lifeless and dull. Yet, flat light can make for a pretty impressive black and white art.
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Early movies were produced in black and white. Many films from the 30s, 40s, and 50s are available on YouTube. Producers at the time didn’t have the luxury of using color to draw viewer’s attention. Instead, they had to rely on varying lighting and shades to get their message across.
If you’re relying on natural light, you’ll have to be patient sometimes and wait for the elements to align perfectly. When that moment arrives, take multiple shots. You won’t always know at the time which specific image was outstanding; it’ll only become apparent later on as you work on identifying the best one.
Your entire photograph doesn’t have to consist of black and white only. You’ll, however, want to have at least some elements in these colors. It helps anyone seeing the photo notice the image’s texture.
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Two young children intrigued by my camera as I walk through a bustling street in Kolkata, India. This shot was taken on dusk so my ISO was high. Converting to colour was more forgiving of digital noise that was evident in the original colour file.
Fujfilm X100S, fixed 35mm f2 @ 35mm @ f/2, 400 ISO. Monochrome conversion, contrast and clarity adjusted in Adobe Lightroom. 4) Use light effectively
7 tips for better black and white photos In our photo tip of the week, photographer Drew Hopper shares his advice for better black and white photos. The very first photographs were once all shot in black and white.
This dates back to 1839, after Mr. Daguerre discovered a method to fix an image captured inside the camera obscura – he called this the Daguerreotype. If you want your images to evoke a response and standout in monochrome you’ll need to put some thought into your shots.
Here are my seven tips for mastering the art of black and white photography, or at least learning to see what works and what doesn’t in monochrome. Men building a wooden ship in Central Vietnam. The wind was howling so I wanted to capture a sense of setting sail with the sail flapping in the wind.
The sky was overcast so I converted to black and white, which helped draw the focus to the men working. Fujfilm X100S, fixed 35mm f2 @ 35mm @ f/5.6, 400 ISO. Monochrome conversion, contrast and levels adjusted in Adobe Lightroom.
1) Learn to see in monochrome
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When it was first introduced to the market, Silver Efex Pro was a fairly expensive program going for as much as $500. Google acquired it, slashed the price to $137 before eventually making it available for free. Since it doesn’t cost you anything, it’s always a good idea to tinker your images in Silver Efex Pro if you intend to shoot professional black and white pictures.
The quality is striking to the extent that individuals who have used this plugin for a while can actually tell most times if Silver Efex Pro was employed in the production of black and white art. While Google ended support for it in May 2017, it’s still available.
When colored photos became the norm, black and white photography was initially considered bland and old-fashioned. After all, why would one limit themselves to varying shades of gray when they had the entire color spectrum at their disposal?
When you get rid of color from an image, you can no longer use it to provide emphasis or make a certain scene the center of attention. Removing color eliminates one of the more distracting aspects of a photograph. When looking for a great black and white shot, ignore the colors and set your sights on the shapes.
Study the work of seasoned black and white photographers. Thanks to social media, many of them share their images on major platforms including Instagram, Facebook, and Flickr. Use hashtags such as #bwportraits, #bwphotography and #blackandwhitephotos to see the work of multiple photographers. Some of them respond to your questions and are ready to explain the idea behind the picture.
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In black and white photography, success is contingent on paying great attention to tonality, lighting, composition, process, and equipment. Nevertheless, choosing the right gear and developing the necessary technique places you on the path to creating unforgettable monochromatic images.
Black and white photos can deliver a strong image that would otherwise look weak and average in color. Qualities like shadow, light, texture, and pattern are accentuated in breathtaking fashion when the attachment of color is eliminated.
In black and white photography, there is no color to bring out the sharp contrasts of separate elements on your photo. You have to rely on shades of grey to portray the distinctions. Use contrast to elevate your main subject by, for instance, placing a light colored item in front of a dark background. This also allows you to add depth via a variety of shades and tones.
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Tonal contrast is important in all types of photography, however it becomes more apparent when you start shooting in black and white. The tonality of an image is what gives a photograph atmosphere and mood. Some images are dark and punchy with distinctive definition of contrast, while other images may be more subdued and softer in appearance. To capture stronger monochrome images it’s essential that you understand tonality and how to use it. The easiest way understand tonal contrast is by categorising into three simple categories: high, medium and low. An image with high tonal contrast will consist primarily of white and black. Medium tonality is a balance of all three, while low tonal contrast is when an image looks more washed out, usually just with grey tones.
Photographers will use flat light to realize a near perfect image then add contrast during post-processing using dodge and burn, and other techniques.
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1 Black and White Photography2 Black and White Photography Tips2.1 Watch Black and White Movies2.2 Choose the Right Equipment2.3 Where’s the Light?2.4 Experiment with Flat Light2.5 The Deeper the Black, the Brighter the White2.
6 Have Some Clean Black and Clean White2.7 Use Exposure to Visualize Black and White2.8 Use Filters2.9 Curves and Levels2.10 Choose a Suitable Subject2.11 Shape and Form2.12 Contrast2.13 Beware of Dead Spaces2.
14 Shoot RAW2.15 Silver Efex Pro2.16 Black and White Can Mitigate Bad Lighting2.17 The More Colors, the Better the Black and White Picture2.18 Connect with the Audience2.19 Find Your Space2.20 Practice, Practice, Practice3 Conclusion
Where appropriate, arrange the objects in a way that brings out the most outstanding attribute of the different subjects. Patterns are particularly interesting because of their orderly repetition. You can see patterns in a wide range of everyday scenes including parking lots and rows of bushes.
Buddhist monk inside an ancient temple in Old Bagan, Myanmar. This is a very common scene for photographers visiting Bagan, but I hadn’t seen many monochrome shots of this subject. The natural light spilling in through the cracks in the wall created an ethereal atmosphere that worked beautifully in black and white.
Canon 6D, Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens 1/80s @ f2, ISO 640. Monochrome conversion, contrast and clarity adjusted in Adobe Lightroom. 5) Experiment with High-key and Low-key
There isn’t a perfect choice when it comes to cameras; it depends on personal preference and intended purpose. Hobbyists will probably be happy to settle for a decent phone camera. However, if you are going into black and white photography for professional reasons or are otherwise interested in commercial quality shots, you’ll require a higher end camera.
Some photos lend themselves to color but are not as eye-catching in black and white. For instance, sunset photos depend on the color of the sky to deliver the required impact. It’s therefore difficult to have an impressive black and white image of the sunset. Colorful flowers and birds are other examples where shooting in color is the most feasible option.
Consistently seeing and thinking in black and white is a nagging problem for photographers. It’s understandable since, after all, we are surrounded by color at nearly every moment of our lives.
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The key to successful black and white photography is learning to see in monochrome. This means pre-visualising your images before taking the shot. Not all images will work in black and white, some images rely on colour for impact, and therefore they may not be as powerful in black and white. For example, in colour photography we tend to compose images around elements of colour, often working with complimentary colours to build a strong visual statement. However in black and white photography, most colours have the same brightness and/or tone, so the image will appear dull and flat. Removing colour from our vision will bring out the hidden details, textures, and shapes.
Lighting is the single most important element in any image. Different lighting will give your pictures different moods. When colour is removed, the quality and efficacy of the lighting is dramatically transformed. Harsh light tends to be more effective, creating dynamic tones in shadow areas, and giving a monochrome image a more edgy and contrasted aesthetic. Soft and/or subdued light has an opposite effect, often producing a dull or flat look. Shooting during the middle of the day when the light is sharp can give some great monochrome images. The secret is to make sure that light is suitable for your subject. Go out at different times of the day and see how the light falls on your subjects.
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You’ve probably heard photographers mention the term ‘high-key’ or ‘low-key’, but what does this mean? High-key refers to images that are typically brighter with a light range of tones, often a lot of whites with very few black or mid-tones. Low-key images focus on the shadows, true blacks and darker tones, with very few white tones. These images are often more moody with deep contrasts.Using high or low key can be an effective way of capturing a scene in black and white, as we are using the tones to bring out certain elements within a scene. It’s best to experiment to grasp what kind of subjects work best under different lighting.
Black and white photos are at their most interesting when distinct textures and patterns dominate the image. Elements like trees, fences, roads, and people draw viewers into the photo and lead them to the subject matter.
Pay attention to lenses and filters when choosing a camera. A good monochromatic photo heavily relies on sharp contrast and tonality. You’ll need a lens that can capture these attributes.
Part of Google’s Nik Collection photo editing suite, Silver Efex Pro is an Adobe Photoshop plugin that makes black and white images look breathtaking. In theory, you can use Photoshop to do all that Silver Efex Pro does; it’ll just be more difficult and manual.
Once you see start seeing the world in black and white you will begin to recognise the importance of composition, without the distraction of colour within a scene. You may have a strong foreground element, but the background is distracting due to a certain colour that is weakening your narrative. When colour is stripped from a scene the focus becomes solely about the relationship between the subject and the rest of the scene. No longer will you have to contend to uncomplimentary colours and hues; instead you’ll be drawn to the structure of how to compose an image with the key elements.
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Fisherman sitting on his wooden boat on Inle Lake, in Myanmars Shan State. By underexposing and converting to monochrome I was able to highlight the fisherman without the distraction of any colours or hues.
Canon 6D, Sigma 35mm f1.4 @ 35mm @ f/2, 400 ISO. Monochrome conversion, contrast, dodge and burn in Adobe Lightroom. 2) Work with shapes, patterns and textures
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Black and white photography definitely has a timeless quality, which can often provoke an entirely different emotion and response from your viewers. When we view a photograph we are viewing the past, but when we shoot in monochrome it has the power to freeze the present moment and transpire us into history.
This is one of the core principles of black and white art i.e. deepening the dark hues so whites and lighter colors appear strikingly brighter. It’s a play on human perception where the sight of dark tones creates the impression that every other element in the scene has to be brighter.
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It’s not always possible to redeem a photo shot in bad lighting. Black and white can, however, give you an opportunity to do that. Color photos that may seem to be a disaster due to terrible lighting can be saved to some extent with the use of a polarizer. For example, you can eliminate the reflection on the leaves in your picture.
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Finding your own style is never an overnight event. That wouldn’t be desirable even if it were possible. Taking your time allows you progressively develop depth and character.
Remember that not all light, especially natural light, is created equal in photography. As a general rule, avoid taking black and white shots when the sun is at its brightest. The excessive lighting obscures detail and washes out the images. You are more likely to have a beautiful photo early morning, late afternoon and on overcast days.
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Tattoo faced woman from the remote hills of Chin State, Myanmar. I wanted to capture the tattoos, however the lighting was harsh and colour wasn’t doing her face justice. Monochrome helped add definition to define her tattoo features.
Canon 6D, Sigma 35mm f1.4 @ 35mm @ f/1.8, 200 ISO. Monochrome conversion, contrast and clarity with some dodging and burning of the tattoos adjusted in Adobe Lightroom. 6) Discover the relationship between your subjects
For nearly two decades, digital cameras replaced film cameras and dominated the photography industry. With the advent of affordable smartphones and tablets featuring increasingly good quality inbuilt cameras, many enthusiasts have found a convenient tool for their photography hobby.
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Powerful photos are an aggregation of small subtleties. Take your photograph through Adobe Photoshop where you can make small tweaks that would be impossible to do using your camera. The tiny changes may include darkening a specific cloud, making whites sharper or changing the tone of a rock surface.
Patiently learn the ropes as you work your way toward crafting a perfect image. Make slight changes to similar photos or frames. Don’t get too lost on one photo though. Adhere to a timeline by, for example, giving yourself no more than 5 minutes to edit each photo. If need be, you can come back to it days or weeks later to see if there’s anything you may have missed.
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You cannot realize your full potential in modern black and white photography if you fail to harness the power of filters. Use the polarizer, for instance, to darken skies and create a dramatic ambiance. You can also use a split grade for similar purposes.
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Once you start to see beyond the colour palette of a scene, you’ll begin noticing other elements such as shapes, patterns and various textures to build a compelling composition. For me, black and white photography is very similar to street photography, where you have an open canvas and must deconstruct and/or exclude certain parts of a scene to compose the strongest possible image. Keep an eye out for interesting juxtapositions and striking repetitions that could be used to grab your viewer’s attention.
Your photo should make persons viewing it feel something. One of the best ways to do that is to identify scenes with moments that are alive and authentic. Look for that intersection of composition, light and a life micro-moment.
In a sense, black and white photography eliminates time from the equation. You can compare an image from the 1940s and one shot today without feeling a gulf in time except for changes in technology and style.
This is one mistake first-time black and white photographers often make. When you take a close-up shot of a penguin or a Dalmatian dog, the scarcity of colors may initially make it seem like an obvious candidate for the perfect black and white picture.
Whether you are a professional photographer or a hobbyist, black and white pictures are artistic, therapeutic and take you to new depths beyond the decorative role of color.
Many of the best black and white photos are a result of editing RAW files containing full color. Even when set to RAW, many camera models have a monochrome simulation mode that will give you an early indication of how the final black and white image will look like.