Whilst browsing the internet at other photographers websites, I was amazed by the fact at how so many of them, when creating a black and white image simply must just hit the back and white button in Photoshop without considering doing anything else to the image, or even thinking to themselves, does this look good in black and white. I even found one photographer who thought that every image on his website looked good in colour and black and white, and that’s not quite true.
Black and white photography is an art in itself. So I thought that I would write a few hints and tips to help you start creating superb black and white images.
Always shoot colour- Even if your camera has a black and white setting, don’t use it. I find that its so much better in post production to start with a colour image and then convert over to black and white, plus you won’t forget to change your camera back and find you have ruined all those images that you wanted in colour.
Shoot Raw- if your camera allows it, shoot RAW, again the benefits in post production are huge. There you will be able to fine tune shadows and highlights etc.
Composition- Since colour is not available to draw the viewers eye into the photo, the use of shapes, textures and patterns is key to ensuring your image ‘flows’.
Contrast- Without colour, photography relies on the difference between light and dark to convey a powerful image. Look out for shadows and highlights Try shooting light subjects against dark backgrounds and dark subjects against light backgrounds.
Watch your Backgrounds- If your background is too busy, this will detract interest away from the subject. Simple backgrounds make for a very interesting black and white image.
Make use of bad weather- Many photographers turn their noses up at going out photographing when it’s dark and overcast thinking that they will not be able to get any good images, but actually its ideal weather for Black and white photography!
Made a mistake- Black and white can also be a very good cover up tool. Not that us photographers ever make mistakes ;) but if you ever end up with a colour image that is grainy because you forgot to lower your ISO, or you have an image where the lighting is completely wrong, you will be surprised at how turning your image black and white may be the answer. Take this shot of a portrait where the flash didn’t fire. Convert this to a high key black and white image and it could turn out to be their favourite!
Black and white with a hint of colour- Another way of making your subject stand out is to bring in a small amount of colour to an image.
So next time you are about to turn an image black and white don’t just hit the preset button and then hit save. Think about contrast, brightness, maybe even adding some grain, and if an image looks good in colour don’t automatically think that it will look good in black and white….maybe just leave it in colour.
To see more of my work or to contact me regarding anything you have seen in my blog, please visit www.jamesnealephotography.com.