Black-and-white photography: ultimate tips for the perfect shot

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Image: Inge Schuster

Black and white photography is a great art form to master. You can capture any subject through the monochromatic medium, however there are certain set ups that will get you better results.   

So how do you get the best results from your black and white images? Here are six pictures from the Black and White category of Digital Camera magazine's 2019 Young Photographer of the Year and Photographer of the Year competitions so far. Make sure you enter your shots now to be in with a chance of winning some amazing prizes!

1. Tell a story (remove colour distraction)

(Image: © Udayan Sankar Pal)

When it comes to documenting an event or a scene then colour can distract the viewer from the main thing that is happening in the frame. That's why documentary and street photography lend themselves to the monochromatic medium. Without colour the viewer is forced to look at the shapes and tones in the image, making it easier to construct a narrative and tell a story.    

2. Go minimalist  

(Image: © Inge Schuster)

Minimalistic settings such as an art gallery create a great space to experiment with black and white photography. Take for example this image here shot by photographer Inge Schuster. The creative composition and use of negative space teamed against the small figure sitting on the bench make a great image.     

 3. Patterns and shapes 

(Image: © photosum)

Look or create patterns and shapes to add an element of interest to your frame. In this fine art nude example shot by Photosum the use of light across the model's body brings an interesting touch to the final abstract result. Watch out for highlights over exposing when taking a shot like this and we suggest to use your histogram to check this aspect.  

 4. Work the highlights and shadows 

(Image: © Simon Hadleigh-Sparks)

Shadows and highlights are key factors when creating a great black and white image. When it comes to processing your images ensure you spend enough time darkening the shadows and bringing out the highlights (although not too much that you overexpose!). A great way to do this is to use the Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop ensuring you build up the effect slowly. 

 5. The right sky 

(Image: © Phil Green)

When it comes to capturing a cracking black and white landscape then avoid clear blue sky as it will look very boring! Heavy clouds that are textured and dense create the ideal settings for a monochrome landscape shoot. Take for example this image here by Phil Green. The slow shutter speed has captured the passing of time and helped emphasise that great textured sky. 

6. The two Ts (Tone and texture) 

(Image: © Trevor Cole)

Black and white photography is all about tone and texture. What is tone? It's the difference in shades between the lightest and darkest part of the image. For example an image with high contrast will have a large tonal range where as an image that is flatter will have less difference. Look for texture/s in the setting too as these are also a vital ingredient. In this example here by Trevor Cole the textures in the trees and bark add a large tonal range and the end result is completely enticing!     

Enter the competition here

About the prizes

Digital Camera Photographer of the Year is back for 2019, with an amazing prize fund worth £30,000 up for grabs! This year the awards are free to enter, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors, mpb.com and Affinity Photo.

The expert judge's chosen winner of the Urban Landscape contest will receive a Rohan jacket worth £249. The winner of the crowd vote will receive a year-long subscription to Digital Camera magazine.

The winners will be featured in Digital Camera magazine and on Digital Camera World, as well as sister magazines including N-Photo and PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine, and they will receive additional exposure through Digital Camera’s social media. There will be an exhibition at The Photography Show in March 2019, and winners will be invited to attend a special gala reception.

The overall winner of Digital Camera Photographer of the Year 2019 will win an MPB voucher worth £2,500 GBP, a £2,000 Rohan shopping experience, a Sony A7 III + 28-70mm lens, a Rotolight NEO 2 kit and a CEWE print.  

The expert judge's chosen winner of the Urban Landscape  - 25 & Under contest will win £100 cash and Affinity Photo + Affinity Photo Workbook. The winner of the crowd vote will receive Affinity Photo and a year-long subscription to Digital Camera magazine. The top ten of the crowd vote will each receive Affinity Photo.

The overall winner of Young Digital Camera Photographer of the Year 2019 will win £3,000 cash, Affinity Photo, an iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, a Sony RX10 IV, a Rotolight NEO 2 kit and a CEWE print. 

Find out more about the competition here