How to Take Pictures in Black and White

Black and white photography has a timeless appeal, with its striking contrasts and emphasis on form and texture. While most cameras today capture images in color, it is easy to convert your digital images to black and white in post-processing. However, if you want to create stunning monochrome photographs, there are a few things you can do before pressing the shutter button. In this article, we’ll cover some tips and techniques for taking pictures in black and white.

  • Look for contrast
  • One of the key elements of black and white photography is contrast, which is the difference between light and dark tones in your image. When shooting in black and white, pay attention to the shadows and highlights in your scene, and try to capture as much contrast as possible. Look for scenes with dramatic lighting, such as a bright sunlit wall next to a deep shadow, or a person’s face in profile with one side lit and the other in shadow.

  • Use filters
  • In traditional film photography, photographers used colored filters to alter the way different colors were captured on the film. Similarly, you can use digital filters to simulate this effect and change the way colors are converted to black and white. For example, a red filter will darken blue skies and make clouds stand out, while a yellow filter will brighten skin tones and create a warmer look. Experiment with different filters to see how they affect your images.

  • Shoot in RAW
  • When shooting in black and white, it’s a good idea to shoot in RAW format, which captures more data than JPEG files. This gives you greater control over the final image in post-processing, allowing you to adjust the contrast, brightness, and other settings to create the perfect monochrome look. Shooting in RAW also preserves the original color information, so you can always go back and create a color version of the image if you change your mind.

  • Pay attention to textures
  • In black and white photography, textures become more pronounced and can add a lot of visual interest to your images. Look for surfaces with interesting patterns, such as tree bark, stone walls, or metal surfaces. You can also create texture by playing with the depth of field, using a wide aperture to blur the background and create a soft, dreamy look.

  • Simplify your composition
  • Without the distraction of color, black and white photography is all about shape and form. To create a powerful image, try to simplify your composition and focus on the essential elements of the scene. Remove any elements that are not essential to the image, and use leading lines and other compositional techniques to guide the viewer’s eye.

  • Shoot in low light
  • Black and white photography can be particularly effective in low light conditions, where color can become muddy and indistinct. Try shooting in the early morning or late afternoon, when the light is soft and directional. You can also experiment with long exposures, which can create a sense of movement and blur in your images.

In conclusion, black and white photography can be a powerful way to create striking images with a timeless quality. By paying attention to contrast, texture, composition, and other elements, you can create monochrome images that are both beautiful and meaningful. Whether you’re shooting with a digital camera or film, these tips and techniques can help you capture the beauty of black and white photography.

Doug Marshall

Doug Marshall is a freelance photographer, photography instructor, professional blogger and pizza enthusiast. You can follow him (dougmphoto) on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.