11 Tips on How to Capture Stunning Black & White Photography

Are you an aspiring photographer looking to expand your knowledge and skills? One way to do so is to master the art of black and white photography; a great idea that may leave you with several questions on where to begin to create such stunning images. Good news is we’ve collected some helpful hints to assist you as you begin honing your black and white photography skills.

Featured image: Conway L. / CC BY 2.0

1. Shoot in RAW

Image credit: 55Laney69 / CC BY 2.0
First off, what is RAW? RAW is a file format that captures all image data recorded by the sensor when you take the photo. When you shoot in RAW, you are able to get higher quality images, correct problem images and change your mind later if the photo wasn’t as great in black and white as you thought.

2. And in HDR

Image credit: Nana B Agyei / CC BY 2.0
It’s also a good idea to shoot in HDR because it exaggerates the dynamic range and edges. It really makes the image pop.

3. Look at Lines, Shadows and Shapes

lines shadows shapes
Image credit: Misha Sokolnikov / CC BY-ND 2.0
We live in a world of color. When visualizing an image in black and white, it’s important to pay attention to lines, shadows, and shapes. These three things can help you put together a captivating composition.

4. Patterns and Textures

patterns and textures
Image credit: Misha Sokolnikov / CC BY-ND 2.0
Beyond being great for shadows and lines, black and white photography is great for patterns and textures as well. Color can distract from patterns and textures, but black and white photography not only highlights them but makes them more compelling.

5. Look For Contrast

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Some of the most powerful photos have high contrast, with a portion of the photo nearly pure white and another portion that is so dark it looks completely black.

6. Flat is Also Powerful

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Flat light is that with little range of exposure. These photos make dramatic black and white images as well, but usually when there is a deep black element to capture attention and take the eye through the image.

7. Clean Blacks and Clean Whites

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Image credit: See-ming Lee / CC BY-SA 2.0
From conceptualizing to finishing an image, you should look to have clean whites and clean blacks in your photo. Without them, your picture can look muddy, which means it has an overwhelming number of shades of gray.

8. Find Varying Tones of Grays

Image credit: Kai Morgener / CC BY-SA 2.0
That being said, you want to find a wide range of grays to help make a photo more captivating. The black and white adds interest, but without grays, the image can be dull and unexciting. Using flash you can capture the gray highlights and shadows to keep the photo interesting.

9. Use a Polarizer

Image credit: See-ming Lee / CC BY-SA 2.0
If you’re photographing reflective surfaces for your black and white images, it’s best to use a polarizer to cut the reflections. If you don’t, the highlights can end up distracting the onlooker from the overall image when color is removed from the photo.

10. Exposure is a Black and White’s Best Friend

Image credit: Ghislain Berger / CC BY 2.0
Whether you turn to long exposure, exposure or underexposure, using this function can greatly improve your image. It can make areas that would normally be bleached out turn gray or it can amp up a picture just the way you want it. Let shutter speed and aperture work together to create the perfect exposure.

11. Silver Efex Pro

silver efex pro
Image credit: Chris Combe / CC BY 2.0
Silver Efex Pro 2 is a Photoshop or Lightroom plugin that makes black and white photos look incredible. It’s a simple and effective, albeit somewhat pricey, tool that makes photos look dramatic, beautiful and awe-inspiring.

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