There is something so timelessly appealing about black and white photography. Black and white images can be exceptionally striking, grabbing the attention of the viewer with their gorgeous details and moody tones. These same stunning qualities can also make them seem especially challenging for beginner photographers. So how can you begin to create beautiful black and white images of your own? Of course being well versed in the basics of photography will help you, but there are some additional tips and tricks that will help bring your black and white photography to the next level. In this succinct introductory guide, you will learn how to begin take beautiful black and white photos today.
Focus on Composition
Without the distraction of color, it becomes even more crucial to have good composition. Look at the details of the scene: the location of the subject, the variety of textures, the array of shapes and patterns. Ask yourself how you can best showcase these details, and make sure to continue to use the same good composition habits, such as the rule of thirds, as you would while shooting color photography.
Look for Contrast
As you're shooting, keep the word "contrast" in mind. Remember, in black and white photography, contrast is what brings the visual interest to the finished photograph. Contrast refers to the difference between the light and dark tones in a scene. There are many ways to add contrast, if you know how. Let's explore a few ways of doing so.
See the Details
One of the fastest ways to level up your photography, regardless of whether it's black and white or color, is to train yourself to take notice of shadows, textures, patterns, and lines. This is key for any artist, but it especially crucial when it comes to black and white photography. Once you have trained yourself to take note of the details in your environment, it becomes easy to take those details and compose them in creative and interesting ways.
Take, for example, shadows. Rather than focus on the subject itself, be it a person, animal, building, or plant, focus instead on its shadow. This is especially striking when the black shadow is shot against a pale background.
You can achieve different kinds of shadows by simply shooting at different times of day. Take the time to notice how shadows evolve, going from long in the morning, slowly shortening over the course of the afternoon, and then lengthening again for "Golden Hour", before fading from sight. Golden Hour, the last stretch of sunlight before the sun sets, is an especially good time to look for interesting shadows. Such shadows can become the basis of an interesting black and white photo.
Take care not to forget patterns and textures either. A black and white photo may be lacking in colour, but it need not be visually bland. Keep an eye out for natural and man-made patterns, such as repeating columns on a building, or a row of ducks making ripples on a pond. Look for variations in texture, be it the soft fur of a cat or the harsh angles of a brick wall. Give the viewer something to explore further with their eyes, something to stimulate their senses.
See Things in Black and White
Practice picturing scenes in black and white. Once you train yourself to see things in this way, taking black and white photographs will become much easier. View your subject not in terms of color, but in terms of the qualities mentioned above: shadows, textures, and patterns. If you do so, you will find it easier to identify which situations will result in the nicest black and white photographs.
Pick a Method
There are two ways of achieving black and white photos. You can either shoot in color and then convert to black and white, or shoot black and white in camera.
Shoot in Color, then Convert
This may sound counterintuitive, but by shooting in color, you can maintain all the color variation of the original shot after converting it to black and white during the editing process. Shooting in color gives you extra flexibility that you wouldn't have if you shot in black and white mode.
This may sound like extra work, but chances are it can be done with a click of a button. Most photo editing software will provide you with the option of converting your color photos to black and white, and all it requires from you is to upload the photos and click the appropriate button. The software will do the rest, and in a few seconds you will have stunning black and white photos.
Shoot in Black and White Mode
If you don't want to edit your photos and are willing to sacrifice some to sacrifice some of the midtown's, many cameras allow you to shoot monochromatic or black and white. One benefit of doing this over the above method is that you can get a proper preview of the final image, while you're shooting it. To have the best image quality possible, make sure you are shooting in RAW mode. If not, the photograph's information is at risk of being compressed and lost forever, severely limiting your editing capabilities.
If this method appeals to you, take a look at your camera setting to see if there is an option that allows you to shoot in black and white.
Select your Subjects
Embrace Cloudy Skies and Gray Days
Beginner photographers often make the mistake of staying inside on cloudy, gray days. Those are the exact kind of days, however, that are ripe with opportunities to take gorgeous black and white images. Winter especially is an excellent time to take black and white photographs. There's a certain moody colorlessness to winter that inspires black and white images. With winter photography, particularly on a cloudy day, you may not even see much change between a color photograph and a black and white one. Moody gray skies, the dark lines of the naked trees, and white snow on the ground - it's like living in a black and white photo!
You may also find it easy to picture things in black and white during rainstorms and in the hours of darkness when the sun is just under the horizon. Training your eyes to see in black and white becomes an easy task when you're actually seeing things in black and white - or close to it.
Black and white photography, while applicable to many settings, is especially effective with street photography.
Street photography is the art of capturing the human condition in public places. Naturally, this can be defined in many ways, but there's something about black and white images that seem to better capture the energy of the streets and the people in it.
Observe your surroundings until you see something that calls out to you. Then challenge yourself to capture the emotion of the moment and telling the story of what you saw in single black and white photograph.
Editing Black and White Photographs
Regardless of how you choose to shoot your black and white images, there are a few things you can do in post to make your photographs even better. Simply upload them into your favourite photo editing software, and keep reading.
You can enhance the existing differences in an image's light and dark tones by increasing the contrast and reducing the brightness. If you're looking for an underexposed look instead, you can do so by reducing the contrast and fading the shadows. Maybe you will want to add some grain to capture the look of film photography?
You can edit your images to suit any vibe you desire. This does not mean, however, that you should apply every tool and slide every slider your software provides. It pays to keep things simple. Narrow down what sort of look you want and slowly experiment until your figure out what works best.
There's an App for That
If you prefer editing on your mobile phone, never fear! There are a variety of apps you can use to achieve the perfect black and white photo; some were even designed specifically for black and white or monochrome images. Many apps nowadays have options to straighten and crop images, plus adjust the highlights, shadows, mid-tones, and more.
Black and White Photography: A Conclusion
Though it may seem challenging at first, black and white photography is a classic art form that you can learn very quickly.
Start with the basics of composition and you're off to a strong start.
Look for contrast and train your eye to see the shadows, textures, lines, and patterns in the world around you.
Weigh the benefits of shooting in color and editing to black and white vs shooting in black and white. Either way, train your eyes to see monochromatically, to have the best chance of composing a winning image.
Embrace the gray winter months, the dark stormy days, and the hours when the sun is just under the horizon. Take advantage of those colorless surroundings, while the color photographers cannot.
Black and white images can also be very effective in street photography. Use the lack of color to bring focus to the story in the image.
When you're ready to edit your images, choose your favorite software or photo-editing app and make the adjustments necessary to make your photos appear their best. This can be as complex as carefully masking different areas of the photo, or as simple as adding your favorite preset.