Are you looking for a few tips to improve your black and white photography skills? Look no further! Here are 10 tips written by professional photographer (and regular Telephoto.com contributor) David Taylor. All of the photos are by Jason Friend.
Light and Shade
Contrast helps to create black and white photos with impact. Look for scenes that have strong shadows and highlights that help to define the shape of your subject, or creates a sense of depth in a scene.
Colour or B&W?
Not every subject or scene is suitable for black and white. Scenes that rely on bold colour for impact, or where there are lots of similar colours that vary only subtly across the scene generally don’t work well in black and white.
In B&W, colour filters lighten colours similar to the filter, and darken those on the opposite side of a standard colour wheel. (So, for example, a red filter lightens red in a scene and darkens blue-greens.) Digital colour filters can either be applied in-camera when B&W/ Monochrome is selected, or when colour images are converted to B&W in post-production.
Black and white photography is a radically different representation of reality to colour, which is closer to how we view the world. Exposure techniques such as extremely long exposures arguably suit black and white better for this reason.
Raw All the Way
Shooting Raw is ideal for B&W photography. Select B&W/Monochrome mode on your camera, as you can see how the scene will look in B&W. In post-production use the files (which will still have colour information) to have greater control over the look of the final B&W photo.
Abstract or repetitive patterns are excellent subjects for the black and white treatment. When shooting, zoom in to exclude any distracting detail that detracts from the pattern.
Black and white photography isn’t just about shades of grey. Use subtle colour tints to add atmosphere to B&W photos. Many cameras offer this facility when you choose B&W, but the options are usually limited. Applying a tint in post-production will give you a greater range of colours to choose from.
Two techniques that were in common use in traditional darkrooms are dodging and burning. Dodging is when a print is selectively lightened, burning is when it is selectively darkened. Neither technique is available in-camera, but good post-production software should have these or similar tools.
Polarisers can be used to darken skies – though red or orange filters are generally just as effective. Where polarisers really benefit B&W photography is contrast control, when shooting shiny surfaces such as glass or wet rock.
Silhouettes work well in B&W. Look for uncluttered views, and subjects that can be easily identified from their shape alone. Don’t have other elements overlapping your main subject as this can confuse the outline of your subject’s shape.
The above 10 tips were taken from the ‘101 TIPS TO MAKE BETTER PHOTOS’ ebook.
If you would like to find out what the other 91 photography tips are, please click here to download a free copy of the book.
This article was first published on Telephoto.com.
David Taylor is a British award-winning landscape and travel photographer, who was born and raised in Newcastle upon Tyne and now lives in the ancient market town of Hexham, Northumberland. He took his first photograph at the age of 14, when his parents gave him a Kodak Instamatic for Christmas, and he has been taking photographs ever since.
His landscape photos have been used in publicity materials by local businesses, councils and tourism organisations, such as the Northumberland National Park Authority. He has also supplied images and articles to both regional and national magazines including Living North, Countryfile, Black & White Photography and Outdoor Photography.