20 Black and White Photography Tips for Monochrome Fans August 25, 2017
The first day of fall in Seattle came along with a full inch of rain in just 24 hours. Tim Durkan, Your Take
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.
From 2014: ” ‘Focus on St. Louis’ is one of only 100 images that will be on display at the Sheldon Art Gallery in St. Louis, as one of the events celebrating St. Louis’ 250th birthday. Photo was taken with an iPhone 4s by Nic Tullis, then 17.
” Nic Tullis, Your Take
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.
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.
A skateboarder catches air at Venice Skate Park in Los Angeles. Chris Leatherwood, Your Take
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.
Melissa Hagarty spends her summer riding a bike in Belleville, Ill. Nic Tullis, Your Take
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.
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.
“Recent visit to Wyoming and Montana with changing weather created some great photographs.” Amanda Fehring, Your Take
Divers can visit the Cancun Underwater Museum off Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Alexis Coram, Your Take
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to take five black and white photos, in five days.
When you shoot in black and white, it’s more important to consider form, shape, and contrast than anything else. When you remove the colour details, your attention is focused onto other elements of the photos, like removing one of your senses. The black and white also helps them to stand out.
Interested in this topic? You may also want to view these photo galleries:
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.
Here’s the photo in colour, after all the post processing that I did, with the exception of the enhance section (I’ll get to that). This is before the change to black and white.
A young woman in a formal gown waits in line at Dick’s Drive-In restaurant in Seattle. “You never know what you’ll find in the Emerald City,” says contributor Tim Durkan. Tim Durkan, Your Take
New York’s Brooklyn Bridge on a July morning. Maria Elina Lopez Osornio, Your Take
I know it’s black and white, but if you shoot in colour, you have more options when it comes to editing it later. It’s really simple, when you shoot in colour, you get three colour channels, red, green, and blue. When you convert the photo to monochrome, you can adjust each channel to change how the black and white looks.
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.
In the back roads of Indiana, a weathered barn still remains. Wayne Cragg, Your Take
The open road leads drivers to the La Sal Mountains. Dan Eidsmoe, Your Take
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.
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.
Twinkle lights brighten a side street in Las Cruces, N.M. Karl Lopez, Your Take
It’s now Day 3 in my 30 Day Photography Challenge, and today’s challenge is to tackle the black & white photos. This isn’t my first time that I’ve covered black and white, and you can read about it here, and here. I suggest that you should, but for the sake of this article, I’m going to give you a run down.
“I remember most how completely dedicated and focused he was about decorating the entire driveway.” Emmanuel Canaan, Your Take
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.
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.
Her body is broken up into sections, at the top you have her face, which is in the tree section of the background. This is the first contrast, with only very light shadows on her face.
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.
Jacqui Barrineau, USA TODAY Published 6:13 p.m. ET Nov. 18, 2014
“The wonderful tea aroma and exceptional desserts make lovely New York evenings even more enjoyable.” Eugenia Paradjanyan-Trachtenberg, Your Take
Drivers can make their way through this covered bridge on the Pierce Stocking Scenic drive. Wayne Cragg, Your Take
Photographers will use flat light to realize a near perfect image then add contrast during post-processing using dodge and burn, and other techniques.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Have original photos that you’d like to share? Join Your Take today. Sign in using your Facebook or Google+ account. By Renee Klahr, USA TODAY
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.
Contribute to #fivedayblackandwhitechallenge or any of the other topics, and then look for your contributions in USA TODAY’s print edition, the USA TODAY mobile and digital products or on the Your Take Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts.
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.
“I was jetlagged and taking an early morning stroll around the peaceful streets of Manhattan. It was bliss.” Emily Anderson, Your Take
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 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.
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 smoothness of the model’s skin, very nicely contrasts with the texture of the background, and the form of her body encourage you to explore her shape more.
A downtown Raleigh, NC building comes to life. Marty Joyner, Your Take
Next you have her upper body, where her soft skin compliments the soft bokeh blur of the blue bells in the background, while still managing to contrast.
“Rural Utah is the perfect place to escape and explore the beauty of the western United States.” Dan Eidsmoe, Your Take
Banging the drum in a Missouri farmers market. Nic Tullis, Your Take
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.
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.
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.
When you change it to black and white though, you can barely tell what I’ve done to it, although you can probably tell that there has been some changes made to the photo.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Finally, you have her dress at the bottom of the frame. Looking at it now, it probably wasn’t the best choice, because it can seem to look a little bit lost in the frame, but this again enhances the contrast in the photo.
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.
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.
Bison take over a road in Yellowstone National Park. Kim Logan, Your Take
“Most of these columns are towering at 100 or more feet above our heads.” Kirk Nix, Your Take
It’s all part of the #fivedayblackandwhitechallenge on Your Take. After the huge success with the “Your world in black and white,” the Your Take team decided to tap into the black and white photo challenges that were emerging on social media.
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.”
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.
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.
A Czech Republic tourist captures a beautiful view of New York. Josef Beran, Your Take
The challenge is easy: Each day, take a black and white photo, upload to the challenge topic on Your Take and then post on your Facebook page, tagging Your Take and a friend. Challenge your friend to post to Your Take. Watch for your photos in our challenge gallery.
The setting sun shines through a restaurant on Lake Travis in Austin. Wayne Cragg, Your Take
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.
The following are vital tips for creating memorable black and white photos.
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
The worst part about digital noise, in my opinion, is the colour of the grain. It usually comes through as some dodgy brown and blue haze on the photo, and I really hate that. But when you’re shooting in black and white, it’s really not so important anymore, because you’re not going to see it like that.
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.
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.
If you would like to keep track of the 30 Day Photography Challenge, come on over to my Facebook page, Twitter and/or Pinterest, and share your photos with me and the rest of the community. The best ones will be included in these posts. Alternatively, you can leave a comment below. (Note: if you’re linking from Facebook, be sure to ‘copy image address’).
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography’s Photographer-In-Chief: Thank you for reading… CLICK HERE if you want to capture breathtaking images, without the frustration of a complicated camera. It’s my training video that will walk you how to use your camera’s functions in just 10 minutes – for free! I also offer video courses and ebooks covering the following subjects: Beginner – Intermediate Photography eBook Beginner – Intermediate Photography Video Course Landscape Photography eBook Landscape Photography Video Course Photography Blogging (Service) You could be just a few days away from finally understanding how to use your camera to take great photos! Thanks again for reading our articles!
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.
From the cobblestone streets to the street art, Dumbo in Brooklyn, N.Y., has a lot of character. Jennifer Lowerre, Your Take
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.
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.
The smoothness of a flower is enhanced through black and white photography. Tim Kellogg, Your Take
I’ve done more post processing to this photo than I would with most, and that’s because I can get away with it much easier. I’ve changed the exposure, black point, contrast, saturation, vibrancy, highlights, and added a vignette. I wouldn’t normally do this much with colour photography, but here’s the result.
Twinkle lights brighten a side street in Las Cruces, N.M.(Photo: Karl Lopez, Your Take)
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.
But this is black and white, what are you talking about Josh?
A 32-foot Tin Man greets travelers passing Bird’s Farm in Forkland, Ala. Art Meripol, Your Take
A homeless Vietnam War veteran rests against a brick wall near the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Mo. Nic Tullis, Your Take
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.