Black and white photography: what every photographer needs to know

Black and White Photography: what every photographer should know

Converting an image to black and white is pretty simple, but if you want truly impressive results it pays to think about how and what you shoot, and learn how to use your photo editing software’s powerful tools to get the most from your shots. In this black and white photography tutorial, we’ll show you how to choose your subjects, set up your camera and how simple but effective adjustments in Photoshop can make your images stand out.

Black and White Photography: what every photographer should know

We’ll also reveal how to get creative with high-contrast graphic compositions and create moody landscapes, and show you how dramatic high- and low-key effects can be used 
to transform your still lifes and portraits.

How to see in black and white

Black and white photography: how to see in mono

When it comes to black-and-white imagery, being able to ‘see’ how your final shot will look is a key skill. It’s important to understand how the colour image you see through your camera’s viewfinder will translate into a monochrome image. To get the best results, you have to look beyond the colours, and instead try to visualise how a shot’s shapes, textures and tones will be recorded.

The success of your black-and-white shots relies on several different factors, but the main thing to look out for is a main subject that will appear in a significantly different shade of grey to the background. Then look out for subtleties of tone and texture that will add depth to your images.

It’s tempting to think that white balance doesn’t matter if you’re going to remove the colour, 
but because the success of any conversion relies on successfully translating colours into attractive tones, it’s important to capture an image without any colour casts.

Recognising potential shots when out in the field can take practice, so why not try converting some of your existing images to black and white to get a better feel for what will work (for more, see Black and white landscapes: make a mono masterpiece)?

PAGE 1: How to see images in black and white
PAGE 2: Good subjects for black and white photography
PAGE 3: Bad subjects for black and white photography
PAGE 4: Using graphic compositions in black and white photography
PAGE 5: Setting up your camera to shoot black and white photography
PAGE 6: Using filters for black and white photography
PAGE 7: Black and white conversion tips

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  • jmeyer

    Thanks for your comment – great advice!