Good black and white landscape photography requires more than just converting your dull, overcast scenes to monochrome.
In this black and white landscape photography tutorial we explain why strong colours are the secret to dramatic monochrome images and offer our best shooting tips to guarantee images with impact.
The great thing about shooting black-and-white landscape photography is that you don’t have to wait for perfect weather to get great shots; all you need is a dramatic sky and plenty of contrast to really make your images pop.
The acknowledged master of black and white landscape photography is Ansel Adams, who’s best known for his images of Yosemite Valley in California, so for this feature we traveled up to our very own Yosemite Valley, aka Wasdale Head in the UK’s Lake District, to try to get the Ansel Adams look.
Here, we’ll reveal the techniques you need to make the most of any landscape shoot, and also what to look out for when shooting landscapes for possible mono treatment – capture the right kind of shot in colour and your conversions will be all the more impressive.
Black and white landscape photography: step 01 See in black and white
It’s tempting to only shoot in black and white when the sky’s overcast and you’re not getting any colour in your images anyway, but this rarely results in successful shots.
While it’s certainly true that a good conversion can make a flat colour original more dramatic, the key to a successful conversion is actually different colours – and specifically how these colours convert to different shades of grey.
Deep blue skies, for example, can be converted so they’re almost black, or a light grey, depending on the look you’re after.
In this respect, the more colourful your scene the better – a mixture of yellows, greens, blues and even reds will all contribute to your finished conversion.
Also look out for high-contrast areas, such as bright clouds against deep blue skies, or dark shadows against lighter backgrounds.
Black and white photography: everything you need to know for perfect mono pictures
High contrast photography: how to bracket expose a forest scene in strong light
Creative spot metering: how professionals expose in high-contrast conditions
Dramatic landscape photography: the secret to adding impact with natural light
8 alternative ways to convert to black and white