These black and white photography tips will help you to recognize good black and white (b&w) photo subjects and to be able to photograph and edit these for the best effects.
The reason so many photography courses and schools teach b&w photography early on is that it is an excellent way to train the eye to recognize what makes a striking composition.
As amazingly beautiful as a colorful sky may be, it is the lines, shapes and curves that move the eye through the photo. So while the colors can be quite beautiful, black and white makes the photo more dynamic.
In spite of its attributes, after the media went full color in the 70’s and 80’s b&w photography faded. It soon became increasingly more challenging to find places that sold and processed black and white film. Now thanks to digital cameras and photo editing software, black and white photography is back!
How to Recognize Great Black and White Pictures
Although choosing the best subjects is very subjective, many professional photographers will agree that the following types of compositions beg for black and white:
- Photos that convey strong emotion. Color can be a distraction, while black & white lends power to the feeling expressed.
- Images lacking a full spectrum of colors; for example, a city scape or Ansel Adam’s Yosemite “Moon and Half Dome.”
- Low contrast images such as photographs shot on dark overcast days.
- Any subject with the lines, contours, shadows and curves that you just know will look great in black and white. How can you tell? By getting familiar with a variety of images! Just look online for “Ansel Adams.” Or search for “famous black and photos.”
- Look at B&W photography books at the library. There are many places to appreciate and learn this artful form of photography!
Create Black & White Photography with a Photo Editor
If upon seeing a subject, you know it’s got to be a black and white photo, then you could set your camera to B &W and take the picture. But once you get experience with using your photo editing software, you’ll find that you can create even better images by shooting in color first and then desaturating it in the editor. Another added benefit to this method is that you’ll never accidentally take a day’s worth of pictures in black and white because you forgot to reset the camera!
Check Your Camera’s White Balance
While the easiest and simplest way to use your photo editor to change a color image to black and white is to desaturate the colors, this method doesn’t allow you to control how the primary colors work together to produce a grayscale brightness. If you have good white balance in your picture, then simple desaturation may be all you need to do in the software editor.
Make Use of Your Photo Editor’s Color Swatches
By using a photo editor, you can also apply color swatches. Even though there are no colorful tones in black and whites, there are still tones created by colors. Color swatches work much the same way as color lenses do on an SLR camera. For instance, camera filters in the yellow to orange range look great with skin tones while green adds wonderful natural tones to outdoors pictures.
And last but not least, don’t forget to share your favorite b&w photographs. Beautiful black and white photos deserve to be framed for all to see. Choose frames that showcase rather than distract from your black and whites with simple clean lines. Hopefully, this article has inspired you to take more black and white photographs!