Lack of colors aside, there is something timeless and captivating about black and white photographs. They evoke a sense of class that never fails to capture the attention of the viewer, despite the prevalence today of color photographs.
For photographers like Steve Burton, especially those who have been so used to shooting pictures in color, being able to deliver quality results in capturing black and white photos can be a challenge. But as these secrets below will show, it is not impossible with the proper skills and knowledge at hand.
Learning to See Things in Mono
The first key to successful black and white photography is learning to see the world in monochrome. When you do, you get to realize that not all subjects would work in black and white, thus developing a keen eye to see which subjects would look good in monochrome or not.
A good tip for DSLR users is to shoot in the RAW (something you should be doing as a photographer anyway) but set the Picture Style (or whatever this setting is called in your camera) to a black and white mode. The photo will be displayed in black and white on the camera’s LCD screen, and you’ll have all the colour information in the RAW file for your conversion afterwards.
Old elements like an old building, rusty metal, or weathered wood have a lot of texture, and textures look great in black and white. One thing to remember though is that texture is affected by the lighting conditions. Low raking light, like the golden light radiated during sunrise and sunset, makes texture stand out sharply. Soft light of an overcast day can also bring out texture, but it may require some additional post processing work to make the photos look good in black and white.
Making Light Work
Color or no color, light is still a big factor in photography. And black and white gives the photographer freedom to take photos in all sorts of lighting conditions. While it is still best to capture photos as far as light is concerned when the sun is low in the sky. But with black and white you can also take photos in the middle of the day, and even on overcast days, which are difficult lighting conditions for when you photograph in color.
What is more important is that lighting conditions matches the subject you are trying to shoot. Midday light, for instance, can be great for architecture but not for portraits, while an overcast day is ideal for portraits, but not for landscapes.
Knowing the Ideal Subjects
As was mentioned earlier, there are certain subjects that shoot well in black and white. Here are some examples:
Portraiture – portraits work well with black and white as the attention is focused more on the eyes and face, and the textures of the subject’s clothes.
Landscapes- while color is the default mode for landscape photography, black and white can also work for landscapes too, especially that It draws attention more to the shapes and forms of the land formations seen in the photos, as well as the light available
Travel and Street Photography- while travel and street photography is usually captured in color, black and white would work just as fine, especially if the photographer wishes to convey more the memory and emotion of a place visited rather than the physical attributes of the place, giving a sense of timelessness to the photo.
Nudes- recognised as one of the oldest subjects for artists and photographers, black and white has been the traditional mode as it highlights physical attributes and artistry employed in the shots.