Shooting in Black and White: Rediscovering the Monochrome Magic

Black and white photography can be intimidating for beginning photographers. However, you don’t have to be a veteran photographer to start shooting in black and white photography. Here are some ways that you can add black and white photography to your portfolio.

Why it’s Magical

Best Photo Lessons black and white photographyShooting black and white photographs can be an extremely effective way to convey emotions and to bring attention to details.  Black and white photographs can be a way to create an intimate and timeless frame due to its nostalgic nature. Black and white photography as explained by Guru Shots can create a magical and timeless image that can be extremely powerful in event photography, portraits, landscapes, and wildlife photography.

Due to this magical effect, it is important that you plan on when to use black and white. You should not just shoot color photography and hope that one of your photos may look good in black and white while you’re editing in post. Your photos will be far more effective if you plan on using black and white while you’re composing the shot.

While you are setting up the shot, it’s important to imagine the scene in front of you without the colors. Instead of looking at how the colors interact with each other in the photo, you need to look at how the hues and tones work together in the photos, as exhibited here with beautiful, tone-perfect images.

If you’re unsure about how a photo may look or are having trouble imagining it, a good trick to use is to put on a pair of sunglasses. This will help you see the potential tones and block out some of the distracting colors that you may be seeing through your lens.

How to compose the best black and white photo

The most interesting black and white photos can be taken when the contrast between highlights and shadows is extreme. While you can look for these specific times of day and light scenarios, there are specific cameras offering features that bring out the best in your monochrome work. However, that’s not the only way that you can create contrast in your photos. Contrast can be found in colors (light and dark) and with lines (architectural and otherwise).

However, in order to create dramatic contrasts in your black and white photos, knowing how to work with and create shadows is a must. This could create a space for dramatic storytelling.

If you want to use shadows to create a dramatic effect, it’s important to be shooting in a location where shadows are readily available or can be made. This can also greatly depend on the time of day. If you’re looking for the most dramatic shadows, noon is a great time to shoot for that is when the sun is the most high in the sky. If you want softer, but maybe more angled lighting/shadows, shoot during early morning hours or sunset hours.

If you’re not able to shoot during those times of day or if you don’t have a location with light, then you can always create your own shadows. You can do this in a studio space or in any location if you have an external flash or man-made light source.

If you have found the perfect light and the perfect scene, but there are no shadows in the frame, you can also create your own shadows. These methods can create unique looks and further your storytelling:

  • Use hands to create shadows. Use your own hands or the model’s hands to create shadows over wanted areas. For example, you can create interesting lines over a model’s face, using just fingers (theirs or someone’s off-frame)
  • Use a piece of lace or fabric. Place a piece of fabric strategically over your light source to create an intricate shadow pattern over your subject.
  • Some other common objects that can create dramatic shadows include: window blinds, fences, glasses, forks, whisks, etc.

What not to do in black and white photography

The most important thing to remember when shooting in black and white photography happens in post. When you’re editing detail in black and white photos, you want to be careful not to overdo it. You want it to look natural and don’t want the texture to be too extreme.

A feature of shooting in black and white is that it brings out details automatically, and they are more noticeable. While this is usually a positive, it can be a negative when it comes to close-up portraits. You don’t want the skin on someone’s face to look rubbery or fake. To avoid this, be cautious with detail and luminance while you’re editing your photos.

Lastly, avoid using black and white photography as a way to try to make photos redeemable. Some people tend to use a black and white filter on photos that didn’t turn out like they wanted them to in color. You may think that a black and white photo will hide your mistakes, but in reality, it usually only highlights those imperfections more.

Reviewing Tips & Tricks

  • Plan on using black and white in your photography before you shoot, not after.
  • Use a pair of sunglasses while composing your shot to help imagine what the tones and hues may look like in black bestphotolessons.com and white.
  • Shoot at noon for the most dramatic shadows.
  • Use or make shadows in order to create high contrast photos.
  • Don’t be afraid to create your own shadows.
  • Don’t use black and white photography to “save” your bad photos.

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