I have fond memories of shooting in black and white film then anxiously waiting while the negatives were developed. I also recall the anticipation, the excitement and often the disappointment it brought too!
The Black & White Photography Project was devised to embrace the wonderful world of monochrome regardless of what we use to achieve it. What a fitting start to kick off with a post on how to create better black & white photographs.
Shoot in RAW
Many of us take photographs in colour occasionally converting them to black and white. Those of you with a camera may have heard about shooting in RAW. It’s a file format that captures all the image data without compressing it. It enables you to produce higher quality images and correct problem images that you’d not be able to recover in JPEG format. You can read about RAW vs JPEG here and understand the benefits of RAW here.
Shoot in colour
If you don’t have a camera with RAW or you use your mobile, there are plenty of ways to convert your images. Pic Monkey is a excellent editing tool plus there’s Instagram and numerous photographic apps including Snapseed. Most digital cameras offer a black and white function but you have more options available when you edit if you shoot in colour. You can read more about this here.
Shoot with a low ISO
You may do this already but shooting with the lowest ISO produces the least amount of noise/grain. The smallest amount of noise will show up like a flashlight and it’s harder to alter post production. You can read more about ISO settings here.
Best time to shoot
Low contrast situations are perfect for black and white photography so embrace the outdoors on those gloomy days! Fog and mist all have the potential to create soft interesting images.
Our eyes see in colour but for black and white photographs it’s important to see the world in tones of grey. We need to think about shapes, patterns and textures rather than what takes our eye.
As you’re not using colour to distinguish one part of your image for another, variances in tone are more important. There’s no need to look out for stark contrasts but they will come into play when composing a photograph.
Lighting is also significant. Direct lighting will often add to the contrast while side lighting will reveal the texture. Light from any direction will create shadows. Light can add interest but also be distracting.
Shapes, patterns and tones
Shapes can come alive in a black and white photograph creating a bolder image. Tonal variations can cause an added dimension as can striking patterns and textures. Architecture can create interesting results.
If you want to shoot landscapes, look out for dramatic skylines and interesting cloud formations. Skies can add mood and dynamism.
Coloured filters have long been associated with black and white photography. A red filter for example can turn a blue sky almost black. Most cameras have this function already built in so you can experiment without purchasing filters. A polariser can also be used to heighten or lessen contrast whereas a neutral density filter allows extended shutter speeds in bright conditions.