Black and white photography is the most classical style of photography. Every photograph which you can think of has the scope to be black and white. Depending on your creativity and the other vital skills, each area of photography, from portraiture to landscape, hold their own set of conditions when it comes to B&W photography.
When you start working with black and white photography, you will understand that it’s not enough to have an ideally matched clothing, or a gaily coloured chandelier swinging from a tree. It’s not sufficient to stand someone in front of a gorgeous backdrop and ask to smile. Compelling photographs do more than that as it gives a glimpse into what the person or object being photographed is feeling right at that moment.
Monochrome photography is more accessible today than ever before, thanks to digital technology. You can look out for these black and white photography tips for getting great results.
Shoot JPG + RAW
The best monochrome conversions can be made by editing the raw files which have the full-colour information; but if one shoots the raw and JPEG files simultaneously and set the camera to its monochrome picture style or picture control or film simulation mode, it is possible to get a suggestion of how the final image will look in black and white.
DSLR shutterbugs can activate their camera’s live view system; however, the usually slower responses mean that many of them will find it favoured or check the image on the screen post-capture.
Because compact system cameras show the scene seen by the sensor with settings applied, the photographers of these gizmos can preview the monochrome image in the automatic viewfinder or on rear screen before taking the shot.
Contrast, Shape and Texture - Three Pillar Factors
The complementary and clashing colours which bring a coloured image to life are all conquered to black and white or shades of grey in a monochrome image. This is when have to look for tonal contrast to make the shot stand out for exceptional outcome.
In colour photography, for instance, your eye would instantly be drawn to a red object on a yellow background, however, in monochrome photography, these two areas are expected to have the same brightness; the image would thus look flat and dull straight from the camera.
Luckily, you can alter the brightness of these two colours distinctly and include some contrast. However, a good starting point is to look for scenes with tonal variation.
There are evermore exceptions, but as a common rule look for scenes which include some strong blacks and whites.
It can be achieved by the light or by altering the brightness (or tone) of the objects in the scene. Changing the exposure settings that you use is also one of the things to look out for. The shine of the bark of a silver birch tree, for instance, could inject some contrast (and also add to the interest) into a woodland scene.
Using Long Exposure
Long exposure shots can run fine in monochrome photography, particularly where there are moving images such as water or flying clouds.
During setting the exposure, the highlights of the subject ( such as water) are recorded across an extensive area than they would with a short exposure. This can help enhance tonal contrast as it chooses a broader area.
The blurring of the movement of the subject also combines a textural contrast with any other solid objects in the frame. If required, you can use a neutral density filter such as Lee Filters’ Big Stopper or Little Stopper to lessen the exposure and increase the shutter speed (by 10 and four stops apiece).
Naturally, when exposures continue beyond about 1/60 sec, a tripod is needed to keep the camera still and prevent blurring. It’s also desirable to use a remote release and mirror lock-up to reduce vibration and create super-sharp images.
Graduated neutral density (or also known as ND grad) and polarizing filters are as useful in monochrome photography as they are in colour snaps. Because they form image contrast, they are accepted as more helpful than any other tools.
An ND grad is necessary when you want to maintain the features of a bright sky in the snap. While a polarizing filter is used to decrease reflections and increase contrast, as a pro photographer, you can also consider taking two or more shots with varying exposures to form a high dynamic range (HDR) composite.
As a beginner, you might be apprehensive about using an ND grad with a standard neutral density filter; for instance, when the sky is brighter than the forefront in a long exposure shot.
Coloured filters, which are indispensable tools for monochrome film photographers, is equally useful for manipulating contrast in digital images.
They work by shading and shadowing objects of their contrasting colour while lightening subjects of their own. For instance, when using an orange filter, it will darken the blue of the sky, but a green one will lighten the foliage.
Types of Black and White Photography
Many things should be reconsidered when you swap from colour to black and white landscape photography. The lack of colour is a significant factor; the golden hour isn’t such a considerable time to photograph, and that sunrises and sunsets become mediocre.
As a photographer, your mind has to shift to look at tonal ranges, highlights and shadows, textures and contrast to get that extraordinary factor and get the best out of your images.
Find out what will you be photographing. Is it a large group of people in a studio setting or a standalone subject with a bokeh background placed in the outdoors? Are you contemplating to take a wide range of lenses or one versatile lens, which can cover many different scenarios or do you want to use one lens to cover all?
Ted Grant, a globally renowned Canadian photographer, once said, “if you want to shoot fashion, shoot in colour, but if you want to shoot emotion, shoot in black and white”. Black and white portraiture produce the vision of the image back to its essential and possibly to the most truthful state. It further stops colour and chaotic scenes from distracting the audience and stealing their focus.
Still-life might be an excellent place to start for many who would like to begin focusing on their black and white photography. It begins in a quiet environment, may be at home, and can give you time and space to prepare before jumping into a more uncontrolled scenario.
A colour image can only be valid when the shade is an excellent colour. Hence if the colours jar or are not symphonic or are distracting, that is when shutterbugs convert an image to black and white.
However, you need to equip yourself to feel and see the tone (that is, how to ignore the colours in front of the camera) if you want to become a pro at producing better black and white photos. One of the simplest black and white photography tips for beginners is to buy either a monochrome viewing filter, (sometimes referred to as a “black and white viewing filter”), or to try initially with a pair of sunglasses with dark grey lenses.