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Black and White Photography

Shooting in Black and White

There are two reasons to shoot black and white photography. One reason is because you think it looks old fashioned and it’s a cool effect. A better reason to shoot black and white photography is because of the lessons it can teach you. Black and White Photography teaches you about values. We’re not talking about ethical values but the value in a monotone sense where color is taken out of the picture and we can focus on value as a single element.

Black and White Photography pen and paper

What is Value in Photography?

High value is white and low value is black, you can see below a visual representation of value scale.
Value Scale

Histograms break down the value of a photograph.

Once you understand value you can use it to create stark contrasts or to create soft, subtle compositions. Value in the photography world really just translates to light. If you have a heavily lighted photography it is high on the value scale. If you have a low lighted photograph then it is low on the value scale.

Black and White Photography piano keys


Great Black and White Photographers

Black and White PhotographyAnsel Adams understood the dynamics of black and white photography along with other essential elements and principals of design and photography. A part of this could be that he didn’t meddle with color, since we often get distracted by color and loose the value of the composition. To truly understand composition shooting black and white photography is something you have to try as not just an “effect”, but as a teaching tool.

Black and White Photography in the Digital Era

Black and White Landscapes

6 Hacks for Amazing Black & White Photographs

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 (Explored) by Stephen Wolfe
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.

1. 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.

2. Use Contrast

Black and White Landscape with Horse by Nick Page
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.

3. Play Around with 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.

HDR with B&W (DSC_0681_2bw) by Schristia
HDR with B&W by Schristia

4. Learn HDR Workflow

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 HDR Photo Editing workflow tutorial)

5. 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.

6. Practice Post-Processing Workflow

OFF vs ON by damon jah
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. Wishing you all the best. Keep clicking.

Black and White Photography Courses from Udemy

The Art of Black & White photography Yesterday and Today

The Art of Black & White photography Yesterday and Today - photography course from Udemy
How to create gorgeous B & W photographies based on the works of the master, Ansel Adams (1902) & how to apply it today

The Art of Black and White Photography

The Art of Black and White Photography - photography course from Udemy
Learn how to create dramatic and compelling black and white images using a range of powerful Photoshop techniques.


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  1. Is it best to shoot in black and white on a digital camera or photo edit to black and white with software?


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