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Try long exposures. In order to take long exposures, a tripod is necessary and a neutral density filter is optional (for daytime long exposures). Most long exposures are taken of, but not limited to, seascapes, landscapes, and people.
Long exposures are good for seascapes to soften the water for an overall smooth look and in landscapes to blur the clouds moving in the sky. These look exceptionally pleasing in black in white because it adds to the overall dramatic look created by the softened movement.
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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.
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Play with lights and shadows. The use of light in black and white photography can make or break a photo. Since color is not available to draw attention to the subject, light needs to be used correctly in order to make the subject of the photo really stand out.
Flat light can even help add a dramatic feel in a photograph when approached correctly. Look for flat light with deep blacks. The blacks will stand out among the low contrast created by the flat light and create a great emotional appeal.
Use light to highlight the main subject of the photograph. Getting away with bad lighting can be easier with black and white photography, unlike colored photography. This is not recommended but can be used.
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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.
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.
Aim for contrast. If you’re used to colored photography, you’ll be used to the idea that contrast isn’t essential; however, in black in white photography contrast is highly preferable. When a photo is taken in black and white, all colors are turned into black, white and various shades of gray.
For a photograph to stand out you want a mix of solid blacks and whites and a variation of grays. These sold blacks and whites will create an overall dramatic feel to your photograph. Attaching a red filter to your DSLR camera improves overall contrast automatically.
Use Lightroom, or another editing program of your choosing in order to manually adjust the contrast of photos. In black and white photography, complementary colors turn the same shade of gray and do not work with one another like they do in color photography, instead they blend into one another.
Turning up the contrast overall creates a much stronger image.
Learn to play with textures and patterns. These elements of design go hand-in-hand when it comes to black and white photography because they are both often lost in colored photographs. Reoccurring patterns are seen easier in black and white photography because the viewer’s attention can be focused exclusively on the reoccurring pattern created by shapes, rather than color where shapes are seen more individually.
Texture is greatly affected by lighting conditions, in order to receive the best texture use soft lighting or shoot pictures during the golden hours of the day (early morning, and dusk). The worst time to shoot texture under harsh lighting conditions, or during midday where the sun is at its peak.
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 #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 #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.
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.
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.
Distinguish what photos should be black and white. Shooting in black and white is not suitable for all photographs. If color is the main emphasis of a photo it would be best to keep the picture in color, while on the other hand color can often be a distraction to the crucial elements of design in a photo and draw away the attention from the main subject.
Portraits, long exposures and landscapes look exceptional in black in white.
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.
In Landscape/Nature, Post-processing by Jim HarmerMay 11, 201141 Comments
Use the histogram. When taking photography use a histogram to assure the scene has the right amount of lights darks and mid-tones. A lot of photographers are unaware of how histograms work, but honestly, it is quite simple to understand.
The left side of the histogram displays how many shades of black are in the photo. The right side of the histogram displays how many shades of white are in the photo. The middle of the histogram shows how many mid-tones or shades of grey are in the photo.
If the histogram reads high on whichever designated side, then there is a lot of that shade in the photo. If it reads low, then there is little to none. The ideal histogram for black and white photography should be evenly distributed.
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.
Start emphasizing the shapes and forms in your frame. Since color has been removed from the image, shape and form become more distinct. Photography is a two-dimensional form of art and it is often a struggle for photographers to take photos that really emphasize the three-dimensional forms of their objects.
Arrange the photo so it displays fascinating shapes and lines to make these parts of the image stand out over others. Shadows and leading lines create form and help the subject of the photograph appear more three-dimensional.
Get the right composition by shooting in different than usual positions in order to change the form of an object (In the photo below, the photographer takes the photograph from the side of the flower, instead of the usual photo taken from above).
Use the weather to your advantage. Rain, fog, mist and haze shouldn’t be a reason to not go out and shoot. These conditions can give a real emotional appeal in a photograph. Grey days can even be taken advantage of, the soft light can create smooth scenes and contrast can always be added later in post processing.
Puddles from rain add reflections to the image and can draw a viewer in. These elements can come across as mysterious, romantic, eerie and more. Use the weather as an advantage next time Mother Nature shows up unplanned
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.
Use low ISO. Use the lowest ISO when taking black and white photographs. When shooting with low ISO, it reduces the noise in a photograph. Noise in a digital image is like the grain in film photography.
Once the photo has been taken the editor can always go back and add the grainy look if one desires post-production. 100-400 ISO range is recommended to avoid noise.
Think in black and white. Seeing in color is the way typical people view the world on a daily basis. When going out and taking black and white photography, though, one must view the world entirely in black and white.
Look for solid black and solid white, in order to make your photos not appear too gray and washed out. Black makes whites whiter. By making your photo appear darker, either manually of in Lightroom, it can really make your photo appear more dramatic.
Use the dodge and burn tool offered in Lightroom in order to emphasize dark areas, and or lighten them in order to show more detail in the shadows.
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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 #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.
Experiment with filters. Using colored filters can have a great affect on the overall quality of a photo. A problem faced in black and white photography is that when colors get converted into black and white they often blend together in similar shades of gray.
The colors red, blue and green often show up the same shade of gray. This can easily be fixed by applying a correct colored filter. Red filters are usually too harsh for other forms of photography but is the most commonly used filter for black and white photography.
A red filter greatly increased contrast and darkens blues, making them a key asset to landscape photography. Orange filters are good to use in black and white photography, especially portraits because if softens skin blemishes and gives similar effects as a red filter, but is a little subtle.
Blue filters are rarely used in black and white photography because they typically darken, and add too much contrast to a photo.
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.
Shoot in RAW and JPEG. Shooting in RAW lets one have unlimited access to the photograph when editing in Lightroom or Photoshop. Additionally, shooting in RAW and JPEG lets you change the picture style displayed on the LCD screen, to be 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.
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.
Taking photos in black and white can produce a very different effect from color photography. Photographing solely black and white photographs involves a different perspective compared to taking colored photography. Thanks to new digital technology, taking black and white photographs is now a much simpler task than it once was, as long as you keep these tricks and techniques in mind.