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How To How to master black and white photography How to master black and white photography
The timeless quality of black and white photography makes it a must-try subject for any photographer to try.
Here are some examples of what to avoid when looking for suitable subjects for black and white photography.
“6 Black and White Photography Tips” for Monochrome Enthusiasts from Petapixel
Black and white photos actually include a whole range of greys, which add subtlety to your images. Normally, you look for subjects that will translate into a range of tones from black to white, but you can also get great results where the subject is mostly light (high-key) or dark (low-key).
BH Photo Video will tell you how to make your black and white pictures look like film noir stills from the Golden Age of Hollywood – this website is focused on advice for creating artistic prints and stylistic creations.
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While landscapes is the end goal of this advice list, it is not the only focus: After all, if you don’t even know that the art of capturing black and white photos consists of a little more than simply switching your setting to monochrome, then the basic advice contained in the first few selections will be of great use to you. Overall, the list varies from the technical to the aspirational, from relying on your intuition solely to utilizing Photoshop to make mother nature that much more majestic.
This list is by no means comprehensive and there are probably many more amazing resources out there for you to consider. But as a starting point, you can’t do much better than the above. Now that you have some idea of what black and white photography is about, grab the nearest camera and literally give it a shot. Leave your own tips and experiences in the comments below!
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Capping off the basics and mastery advice, Ephotozine discusses the importance of separating the elements in a good black and white photo.
“Mono magic: Black and white landscape photography” from Amateur Photographer
The list of thirteen articles crosses a wide variety of websites that we think offer some really solid advice for helping both beginners and veterans alike with insights that are field tested and considered best practices as well as aesthetic and spiritual considerations in the production of monochrome masterpieces.
“Shades of Gray: Tips for Black & White Landscape Photography” from Craftsy
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One of the fundamental aspects of black and white photography is that your whole composition relies on contrast (for on composing images, see our 10 rules of photo composition – and why they work). For this reason, look out for subjects that feature simple, strong lines and shapes. It’s often the shadows that define shape and form, so pay attention to areas of darkness, as well as light.
There’s no absolute right or wrong when it comes to choosing a subject for black and white photography, but you’ll come across subjects and scenes that rely on colour for their impact, and also lighting conditions that don’t work well in monochrome.
It’s certainly true that with some skilful conversion and adjustment in Photoshop post-shoot you can add drama , but the sturdier the building blocks the better your finished image will be.
So, unless you’re trying to create a minimalist image it’s worth taking the time to capture maximum detail in the best lighting conditions possible.
Look beyond colors, and try to visualise how shapes, textures and tones will be recorded
Advice from FStoppers, including how to factor the weather into your black and white landscapes. Weather can have a huge impact on the way a black and white photograph presentes because it also directly impacts the amount of light available to the photographer. As established above, light is essential to striking black and white photos.
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SLR Photography Guide offers excellent advice on how to turn your digital SLR camera into a monochrome powerhouse. This article offers advice for digital camera owners and while the advice given in the other articles is general enough to be applied universally, digital cameras feature a few quirks that are worth noting before setting out for a shoot.
Digital Photography School’s 6 tips for black and white photographers builds upon the information provided by CreativeLive Blog’s tips but with a more in-depth approach, including the prior consideration of what would be an ideal monochrome setting for your photography as well as the more aspirational/motivational tips like “ignore what others are doing” and my personal favorite, “travel.” While the quality of advice such as “travel” could be debatable, the aphorism to ignore others is valuable but only after you know what you are actually doing. Once you have established some idea of what makes a good black and white photograph, you can develop your own techniques towards achieving that end or even experiment with unconventional setups in pursuit of that unique still.
It’s easy to think that because you don’t need bright colors you can shoot black and white photography in any light or in any weather.
“6 Tips to Help You Make Better Black and White Landscape Photos” from Digital Photography School
It’s tempting to think that white balance doesn’t matter if you’re going to remove the color, but because the success of any conversion relies on successfully translating colors into attractive tones, it’s important to capture an image without any colour casts.
CreativeLive Blog’s tips are the perfect starting point for monochrome landscape photography beginners, with five tips that should get you on the right path to taking epic black and white landscapes.
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Along with our best black and white photography tips, we’ll reveal how to get creative with high-contrast graphic compositions and create moody landscapes, and show you how dramatic high- and low-key effects can be used to transform your still life photography and portrait photography.
When it comes to black-and-white imagery, being able to ‘see’ how your final shot will look is a key skill. It’s important to understand how the color image you see through your camera’s viewfinder or on the rear screen will translate into a striking monochrome image. To get the best results, you have to look beyond the colours, and instead try to visualise how a shot’s shapes, textures and tones will be recorded.
“Five Tips for Shooting Black and White Landscapes” from FStoppers
A basic primer on how to take monochrome photos – gotta crawl before you can play ball! Tips include understanding contrast, settings, and how to set up the shot.
Black and white images need strong compositions to really work. Keep an eye out for strong lines or features in your scene that can be used as leading lines, or positioned diagonally across the frame to create dynamic images.
The success of your black-and-white shots relies on several different factors, but the main thing to look out for is a main subject that will appear in a significantly different shade of grey to the background. Then look out for subtleties of tone and texture that will add depth to your images.
“Improve Your Black & White Landscapes Instantly By Following One Simple Rule” from Ephotozine
Fine detail, or strong textures such as weather-beaten stone, foliage or clouds, can help to give your black-and-white shots depth and interest. Strong side lighting is perfect for bringing out the texture in any subject. You can use strong natural light, or get creative with flash to create side-lighting on the subject.
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Outdoor Photographer’s tips are similarly comprehensive as Improve Photography’s but offer more advice on how to use tools like Photoshop to improve the look of your monochrome captures. This advice is focused on how to view mother nature through the eyes of a black and white photography veteran and how to set up shows with the potential to look like Ansel Adam’s style masterpieces.
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Improve Photography’s tips are comprehensive and best for seasoned photographers that have not yet done a lot of work in black and white. Tips include pay attention to noise and spotting lines and patterns in scenes. Crystallizes and builds upon the basic advice introduced in the preceding articles.
While it’s now simpler than ever to convert your images to black and white, especially now with the host of smartphone apps like Instagram that offer an array of filters, for truly impressive results it pays to think about how and what you shoot, and then know how to use your photo editing software’s powerful tools to get the most from your shots.
Subjects that rely on contrasting colors – such as a purple crocus against a green lawn – generally don’t work well in black and white. This is because the two colors will end up looking similar in tone when converted.
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If the scene you’re shooting relies on color for mood or impact, chances are you’ll be better off keeping the image in color, as in our mushroom image above. Sunrise or sunset shots are another good example; you should always ask yourself whether the image loses some impact without the subtle hues.
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Craftsy’s tips are exclusively geared toward black and white landscape photography and not black and white photography in general – you should know your game before taking this advice. It also focuses on the importance of using contrast in black and white photos.
“How to Take Black and White Pictures” – from Photography Life
“15 Tips For Stunning Black and White Photography” from Improve Photography
Petapixel’s 6 tips for monochrome photography are more nuanced and speak to a somewhat seasoned photographer, including advice like “burn and shoot” using Photoshop’s “Dodge” and “Burn” tools. This advice is best read after you have a working knowledge of black and white photography gleaned from Amateur Photographer and Photography Life.
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“The Lost Art Of Shooting Black-And-White Photos” from Outdoor Photographer
“Black and White Landscape Photography Tips” from SLR Photography Guide
While you would not expect it, Tech Radar has some excellent advice on how to take photos. This should polish off the basics for you and make you ready to focus on capturing landscapes in black and white.
When you use photo-editing software to remove the color from an image you instantly lose one element that the viewer relies on to interpret the scene. So other elements become even more important for successful black and white images.
13 Incredibly Useful Articles For Getting Started With Black and White Landscape Photography
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“10 Tips on How to Create Better Black & White Images” from BH Photo Video
“5 Black and White Landscape Photography Tips” from CreativeLive Blog
In our expert guide, we’ll show you how to see in mono, choose your subjects, set up your camera and then explore how simple but effective adjustments in Photoshop or Lightroom can make your images really stand out.
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Here’s a run-down of the most common elements that you should look for when identifying a suitable subject for the black-and-white treatment. Remember that these elements can be used individually, or even combined to produce marvellous mono images with clout.
Some more advice on how to get started in black and white photography. More in depth than the above and focused on the beginnings of landscape monochrome photography.
Recognising potential shots when out in the field can take practice, so why not try converting some of your existing images to black and white to get a better feel for what will work.