Black and White Photography Tips

Black and white photography is the more romanticized type and the conduit that takes us back to the earliest days of photography, back in the days when it was the only colors which conveys the artful way of producing a still image.

Today, black and white photography continues to amass large followings and practitioners. Since the beginning of photography, it has remained an elusive art which looks simple when viewed but a complicated technique to produce, it is one photography style that takes experience and time to master. To help you improve in your composition of black and white photographs, here are some tips to remember and hopefully guide you into producing stunning black and white photographs.

Learn from Classic Black and White Movies like Gone with the Wind and Casablanca

The visual style of the black and white Hollywood era has produces many iconic scenes and images. Learn a thing or two on how to properly compose a portrait and landscape photograph that expresses a story behind the image, from the movies of the era. Just look at the shades on the characters’ face and analyze how it able to tell a myriad stories ranging from love, death, mystery, jealousy and hate. All emotions conveyed by simple yet powerful black and white snapshots.

Meet your Friend, Contrast!

Black and white photography is the opposite of color photography when it comes to welcoming contrast. In B&W photography, contrast is your friend. Remember in the days of film cameras, photographers even put a colored filter, like red filter to increase the level of contrast. The vast skies over a stunning landscape create a dark apparition making the foreground objects more dramatic.

Black Makes White Shine

This is a trick which makes lighted objects become brighter, doing this you just need to make the dark objects darker. Law of vision suggests when the mind sees a darker object, the brighter it sees lighter colored objects. This creates a highly contrasting and more dramatic look in your black and white photography.

Vanishing Lines Adds Drama

Try experimenting with shooting a black and white image which highlights a vanishing line in the center. This could be a long railway or a long pattern captured within the frame. This takes the viewer’s eye to follow the line and unto the background, preferable a bright sky or a lighted cityscape. The patterns that vanishing lines ads produces a more dramatic feel to your image.

black and white photography
Photo by abstracthope – a sample of a b&w image with vanishing lines 

Take note of the Clean Black and Clean White Rule

Avoid a pixelated or muddy image by taking note of the ‘clean black and clean white rule’. This is achieved by capturing the only clean shades of white and a clean shade of black. Make sure a section producing the clean parts of black and white are the two main elements of your image in order to direct the viewer’s eyes to those two main subjects.

black and white photography
Photo by Macbrian Mun- a sample of a b & w photograph with neat white and black rule

Filters and Exposure are Your Friends

In order to produce a more intense and spectacular black and white photographs, make the most of everything by experimenting with your exposure settings. Shooting with an underexposed setting or an overexposed setting, normally both in 2.5 stops difference, your image will easily capture the viewer’s eyes by projecting the obvious subject in more dramatic form. Filter, meanwhile still makes a wealth of difference in black and white photography. A polarizer can be used to darken the sky and evokes a high drama, while a split grad filter could achieve contrasting shadows in both parts of the image, thus inviting the viewers’ eyes to see a more compelling black and white photograph.

black white photography
Photo by elquemira – a b & w photography shot with a filter

These are just a few of the many other ways of improving your black and white photography skills. Learn each of them and as you go along, you will see a vast improvement in your black and white photography.


About Kristine Buenavista

Tin oftentimes takes her folding bike and old camera along country roads. Sometimes, she forgets to take pictures (though she never forgets when she finds great photos elsewhere). She narrates through words and images here. Travel, creativity, laughter, cerveza negra, scavenge hunt for beauty, starry-windy nights are among the things that make her feel weightless.

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