We all anticipate what our photographs will be like in colour but do you visualise in black and white too? Black and white images produce very different emotions to colour so it’s good to train yourself to see in tones. Check out our top tips to perfecting the art of black and white photography:
Shoot in RAW or colour
Most of us take photographs in colour, converting some of those images to black and white. If you use a camera, shooting in RAW will enable you to capture image data without compressing it. In essence you can produce higher quality images and correct issues you’d not be able to recover in jpeg format.
If you take photographs on your smartphone or have a camera without the RAW functionality, you can still convert your images to black and white. Many digital cameras do have a black and white function but often you’ll have more options available if you shoot in colour. You can also experiment with filters. There are lots of editing programmes and photographic apps out there you can use instead too.
Make sure your ISO is low
If you shoot in colour and your photograph is too dark, you can lighten it by increasing your ISO. This can result in your photographs becoming “noisy” or grainy, especially when on a high setting. With black and white photography, you have to have a very low ISO as any noise will be exaggerated several times over.
Think about composition and contrast
Our eyes see in colour but you can train yourself to see the world differently. Look for shapes, patterns, textures, detailing and lines. Stark contrasts are also important in black and white photography. They’re a great way to distinguish one part of an image from another, working the best if pure white and near black.
Consider your light source
Light can add interest to black and white photographs but it can be distracting too. Direct lighting can often add to the contrast of a photograph while side lighting will reveal the texture. Be mindful of shadows as these will be more obvious in black and white photographs.
Low contrast situations are best for black and white photography. So do go out and embrace those gloomy days! Fog and mist can give you those softer, more interesting images as well.
Capture emotion in portraiture
Photographs of people often look stronger in black and white. This is because the emphasis is on their expression, revealing a more emotional side to a photograph.
Seek out shapes, patterns and tones
Shapes make black and white photographs pop and create a much bolder image if architecturally based. You can also create tonal variations through striking patterns and textures. Always make the most of your foreground and remember to include a focal point.
Experiment with landscapes
Skylines can change the mood of a photograph. Look out for dramatic skies and interesting cloud formations. See what’s around you, consider contrasts in the landscape.
These are just a few tips to get you going. The best way to improve your black and white photography is to practice, you’ll soon develop an eye for spotting the most impactful images.