Tips for Black and White Photography / by Kaitlyn Luckow

Black and white photography can be intimidating and if we're being honest, misused. It's important to know not only when the right time to shoot black and white photography is, but how to shoot it as well.  Here are some ways that you can add black and white photography to your portfolio: 

Adding Emotions

Shooting 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. 

Due to the effect that it creates, 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 authentic if you plan on using black and white while you’re composing the shot.

Speaking of composing 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 photo.

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Creating Drama

The most interesting black and white photos can be taken when the contrast between highlights and shadows is extreme. Contrast can also be found in colors (light and dark) and with lines (architectural and otherwise).

Another thing you can do to add drama to a photo is to use shadows to create a contrast. If you’re not able to shoot in a location that provides natural shadows, you can always create your own. You can do this in a studio space or in any location if you have an external flash or man-made light source.

Here are some ways you can create your own shadows:

  • 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.

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Don't Over-do It

As we said earlier, black and white photography can be used a little too often. Due to this, it can greatly lose its effect, especially when you're trying to tell a story or convey emotions.

Another place where you shooting over-do it is in post when you're editing.  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.

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