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Intermediate Photography

Black and White Photography

Black and White Photography can be all about texture. Color is no longer a crutch or handicap that keeps you from noticing other aspects of your pictures. When you are out photographing and know you are planning on converting them to black and white, you should alter your mode of thinking slightly so you are taking in different nuances than those that you would be seeing when shooting color pictures.

When thinking in black and white, different things draw your attention. It’s no longer the vivacious colors of the flowers but instead it may be the texture of the rose petals with dew on them. Shapes, contrasts, textures, layers, depth, and light become more prevalent factors in how you guide the viewer’s eye through your pictures.

Black and White Texture

To help you begin to think in black and white you can either go for a walk at night or even dusk when the darkness muffles the colors and you can actively look for textures, or you can do the following exercise.

Close your eyes and imagine you are looking out your window (or keep your eyes open and look out your window) and as you are watching, all the color drains away until all that’s left are the blacks, grays, and whites of the world in the place of color. What do you notice first? The new fallen leaves against the freshly cut grass? The paint that has started peeling off your patio? The bright reflection of the sun off the water of your child’s kiddie pool? The jumble of tumbleweeds in the corner of your yard?

Now just replace your window with your camera lens. Pull the color out of your consideration and take in the world on a different scale. Then start snapping away at the textures that call to you and your camera.

For some black and white photography is a romantic reminder of the bygone days. For others it is very much alive. For many of you reading this, black and white photography was the original medium of expression, powerful shades of grey that captured life as we know it. There is a bit of nostalgia involved each time we refer to black and white photography. As a result, this genre of photography simply refuses to die. As a matter of fact it is being revived by enthusiasts everywhere.

South Beach 5

South Beach 5 (Explored) by Stephen Wolfe

In this brief discussion, we shall be looking at five tips on how to make better B&W images.

Shooting in RAW

As a beginner into the world of B&W photography, you would think that the easiest way to shoot would be by setting your camera to B&W. Well that is one way of doing it, if you wish to permanently let go of the option to edit and post-process your images. There are a thousand different aspects to B&W photography than the B&W mode and you will realize it when you first start to post process your images in an attempt to accentuate. RAW, for starters, is a loss-less file format. It retains event bit of information that the sensor captures. While post-processing this gives you an incredible range within which you can edit, manipulate and accentuate your images.

Use contrast


Black and White Landscape with Horse by Nick Page

Contrast is a very important tool in the hands of a photographer shooting B&W. This is because contrast can highlight the subject of an image as easily as it adds drama to it. In color this is never an option. When you strip an image of all the colors, except the shades of grey, you strip it of all the distractions and just highlight what’s important.

Play around with the light

You will not always will be at the right place at the right time (which is what half of all good images is about) to capture God light, but there is light everywhere. With B&W photography you have the advantage of using this light to tell a story.

Learn HDR workflow


HDR with B&W (DSC_0681_2bw) by Schristia

You would expect that HDR photography is more for photographers who shoot in color. You would be wrong! HDR post-processing techniques can have mesmerizing effects on your B&W compositions as well. The rules are the same. Check out our Photo Editing Workflow course.

Learn from the masters

Henri Cartier-Bresson, considered as the father of street photography, often used a concept that he referred to as ‘The Decisive Moment’. In plain English it is the key moment when everything in a composition comes together. He used this technique in a number of his images which were shot in B&W.

Practice post-processing workflow using software

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OFF vs ON by damon jah

Making an exposure is only the first 50% of making a captivating image. The remaining 50% involves careful use of post-processing techniques. Adjusting the levels. Pulling down the highlights, bringing in the shadows, working with the blacks and the whites, masking and a range of other sliders needs to be tweaked to create the final image.

The best way you can learn how to post-process correctly is by joining a class in advanced post-processing techniques using Photoshop, Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro. Make it a habit to compare your finished results with similar compositions of other photographers and ironing out the mistakes.

Remember, there is no good and bad technique, only good and bad images. You don’t have to ape any one style or any one work-flow. Condition your eyes so that they can identify what is a good image from the bad ones and you would be fine.


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