Black and White Photography Tip #8: Watch for texture. As long as texture is not front-lit, it will show contrast in fine details, which makes it a compelling subject for black and white. This is why black and white photos of old items such as barns or antiques are so compelling–they have a lot of weathered texture.
Black and White Photography Tip #10: Look for patterns. Patterns are interesting because of their ordered repetition. Color merely distracts us from giving the pattern our attention. By using black and white, images of patterns are far more compelling. Once you start looking for patterns to shoot in black and white, you’ll notice them everywhere: cars in a parking lot, the shoes of a wedding party standing in line, or a row of bushes.
Black and White Photography Tip #11: Long exposures love black and white. I read this tip on the fantastic Digital Photography School website and decided to try it on an image that I took a few months ago. I didn’t like the picture and had almost deleted it until I read that tip and applied black and white to the photo.
This post is in response to a question from Matthew Tapley, who is interested in learning how to improve his black and white photography skills. I hope this article has information that is valuable enough to you that you’d consider sharing it on Facebook or Twitter.
Black and White Photography Tip #14: Shoot in HDR!!! I’m actually surprised how little attention is given to black and white HDRs on the web. I am so convinced of the merit of the black and white HDR that I spent an entire chapter in my HDR eBook talking explaining how to do it. HDR is great for black and white photography because it exaggerates the dynamic range and edges. Nothing pops quite like a black and white HDR.
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Black and White Photography Tip #5: Look for contrast. In my experience, the best black and white photos usually have some portion of the photo that is near to pure white, and some portion of the photo that is near black. This increased contrast adds interest to the scene.
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Black and White Photography Tip #3: To visualize in black and white, only pay attention to lines, shadows, and shapes. This trick is very helpful to aid photographers in pre-visualizing a black and white image even though we live in a color world.
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Black and White Photography Tip #12: B&W isn’t a replacement for bad lighting, but it can soften the blow. The photo of the deer on this page is an example of a photo that looked terrible in color, but which looks nice in black and white. I shot the photo at high-noon. Because I used a polarizer, I was able to cut out the reflections on the leaves and mask the fact that it was shot in terrible light.
If you love photography and want to stretch your horizons, I am sure you will enjoy experimenting with black and white. It may open your eyes to aspects of your world that have never turned you on before. Good luck and happy snapping!
Black and White Photography Tip #1: Shoot in RAW. Many times when I shoot for black and white, the photo just doesn’t turn out right when I finally review it on the computer. By shooting in RAW, you’ll be able to change your mind later if the photo wasn’t as great in black and white as you’d hoped.
If you have never had a serious go at black and white photography, here are a few simple tips to help you get started.
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Black and white photography is a rewarding and challenging field of artistic photography. Even people who don’t care about photography can find themselves drawn to a great black and white image. As a photographer, black and white can allow you to discover a whole new character in a familiar subject. For many digital photographers, black and white photography is nothing more than colour photography converted by software. It is a matter for your own judgement whether this is effective for your photographs.
Black And White Photography Tip #2. ‘Seeing’ Your Subject In Black And White. When you first approach your subject, you need to imagine how it will look without colour. Try to look at it in terms of lines and shapes, shadows and contrasts. You will begin to see your subjects in a whole new light. You may even find yourself zooming in on a particular feature, or photographing the subject from an angle you might never have considered in the past. One thing is for sure; once you get into the ‘black and white headspace’ your camera will express the character of the subject in an entirely different way.
Black and White Photography Tip #7: Use a polarizer. When shooting around reflective surfaces such as water or leaves, use a polarizer to cut the reflections of the sun’s light. When color is removed from the photo, these specular highlights can be distracting the overall composition.
Black and White Photography Tip #6: Find a wide range of grays. Having white and black in the image will help add interest to a picture, but if other areas do not have a wide range of varying tones of gray, the photo will most likely look dull. You can achieve a a wider range of grays by using flash to throw highlights and shadows over certain areas of the photo.
Black and White Photography Tip #15: HSL is the secret sauce. The last black-and-white tip is probably the most important. When post-processing a black and white, you absolutely MUST tweak the colors in the HSL panel in Photoshop or Lightroom. An exact tutorial on how to do this would be a blog post of its own, but your black and whites will look TEN TIMES better with an HSL adjustment.
Black and White Photography Tip #9: Use the correct terminology: Black and white, monochrome, grayscale. “Monochrome” means that a color is placed on a neutral background. Therefore, black and white images, which put black on a white background, are a type of monochrome image. Grayscale is merely a way to show black and white images on a computer, which uses a reduced set of shades of gray.
Black and White Photography Tip #13: Don’t get fooled. I confess to have made this mistake many times. Sometimes I have shot a photo that includes very little color. For example, a close-up of a penguin, or a night sky, or a dalmatian dog. When I see these photos in Lightroom, I often reach for the black and white tools immediately, but I am always disappointed. If the photo is practically colorblind to begin with, it probably won’t look as good in black and white as in color.
You have probably heard the rule that the best landscape photography is done early or late in the day when the sun is low and the light is soft and even. Well, in black and white photography I often look for just the opposite. To create better definition in a subect I will often take my photos through the middle part of the day, to create heavier shadows to emphasise the lines and shapes in the composition. I am also more inclined to take photos looking directly toward the sun, to produce silhouettes that make the most of trees, windmills and other strong shapes against the sky.
Earlier I mentioned a portrait of a very old person. If it is the lines on a face that give the image its character, you need to make sure the lighting is from an angle that produces shadows in the creases. Thus you may be looking for lighting in a black and white photograph that would be considered unflattering and unsuitable for a colour photograph.
Often the image you assume will convert beautifully to black and white will prove a disappointment; sometimes a photo you never imagined will surprise you. However, most serious photographers will tell you that the best black and white photos are taken when the photographer deliberately sets out with black and white images in mind. This creates an entirely different mindset in terms of how you choose and approach your subject. You may, for example, start to see potential in subjects you would never normally consider for colour photography.
Black And White Photography Tip #1. Choosing A Subject. Some subjects lend themselves to colour but are not nearly so effective in black and white. For example, sunset photographs rely on the colour of a great sky for their impact, and rarely produce a good black and white image. Colourful birds, flowers, fashion…there are many times when the only logical approach is to shoot your subject in colour. On the other hand, some subjects are ideally suited to black and white photography.
Black and White Photography Tip #2: Give your photo some Silver Effex. Silver Effex Pro 2 is a Photoshop or Lightroom plugin that does one thing–make black and white photos look incredible. In theory, you could replicate everything that Silver Effex Pro 2 does using Photoshop, but I have to confess that I have never been able to do it. Black and whites look absolutely stunning in Silver Effex Pro 2. The program is a bit pricey, but it is worth the money if you love black and white. In fact, when I look at black and white produced by other photographers, I like to think I can tell if Silver Effex Pro 2 was used on the image. Check it out here.
Because this is an ‘old-fashioned’ medium, it often works well with old-fashioned subjects. Rustic items like old farm equipment, a tumble-down shack, an old wooden fence can all be great subjects for black and white photos.
About the Author: Andrew Goodall writes for http://www.naturesimage.com.au and is a nature photographer based in Australia. He manages a gallery in Montville full of landscape photography from throughout Australia.
Black And White Photography Tip #3. Use The Light To Enhance Impact. Because a black and white photo relies so much on shadows to define shapes and details, your approach to lighting can make or break an image. As a nature photographer, I often photograph black and white photos quite differently from colour photos.
When photographing people, age can also be a factor. A close-up portrait of an aged face showing all the lines and creases of their years on earth can have much greater impact in black and white.
Black and White Photography Tip #4: Pay special attention to noise. With the outstanding low light performance of modern DSLR cameras, in addition to the noise removal programs at our disposal, photographers are used to getting away with noise.
In Landscape/Nature, Post-processing by Jim HarmerMay 11, 201141 Comments
This can only be a short article, so these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. You will find many great subject once you start thinking in black and white.
So there you have three very simple tips for black and white photography. Notice that they are all about the creative approach, not about settings and camera techniques. In fact most of the time, black and white requires no different technical expertise than colour photography. To take better black and white photographs, you don’t necessarily need to change the way you use your camera. Instead, you are looking to change the way you see the subject, and how you can use light, shade and composition to capture the character that black and white photography has to offer.