Top Tips For Black-And-White Photography

Are you interested in having the best outcomes for your black and white photography? Here are the top tips:

Pick The Right Subjects

For images with impact, look for shape, form, texture and tone – these are often overlooked in vibrant, saturated pictures, but with colour stripped away they take on greater significance. Subjects that are already relatively ‘mono’, such as trees in mist, snow-capped mountains and the urban environment, are ready-made for black-and-white photography.

But Avoid These

Scenes, where colour is critical, don’t often translate well into mono – a sunset, for instance, or a bluebell wood in spring. Such subjects can end up looking flat when reduced to shades of grey as seen at

Find The ‘Right’ Light

Overcast conditions are perfect for lowering contrast and helping you to capture detail in close-ups, while low, raking light at dawn and dusk can reveal previously hidden textures, too. For landscape photos with clout, head out on sunny days: harsh sunlight boosts contrast, with deep blue skies turning inky black in a mono conversion.

Shoot in Raw

For the best-quality mono conversions, shoot in Raw. Not only do your camera’s CR2 files retain more detail than JPEGs, but they’ll also stand up better to the rigours of mono image-editing techniques such as dodging and burning (see Tip 7).

Use the Monochrome 3 Picture Style

When you shoot Raw, images are captured without any in-camera effects applied. So why switch to the Monochrome Picture Style? Because this will give you a useful black-and-white preview on your camera’s LCD screen, even though the saved file will be in colour. Even if you’re planning to convert an image to mono you should still shoot in colour – see next tip.

Convert in Photoshop

By carrying out the colour-to-mono conversion in Photoshop CS or Elements, you’ll have complete control over the process. Try the Convert to Black and White command in Elements (Enhance > Convert to Black and White) or a Black & White Adjustment Layer in CS.

Darkroom Techniques

Use the Dodge and Burn tools in CS and Elements to dodge (lighten) highlights selectively and burn (darken) shadows – it’s an excellent technique for touching up mono portraits.

Low Key/High Key

Look for scenes consisting of mainly mid-tones and shadows to create moody and mysterious low-key shots. High-key scenes, such as a wedding dress photographed against a white screen, have a light, airy feel.

Add Some Grain

Add a gritty finish to documentary-style shots and portraits by increasing grain (noise) in CS or Elements. Always set a low ISO in camera though, so you start with the best quality file.

Perfect Prints

Printers require careful calibration if you’re to avoid mono prints taking on a colour cast. If you plan on doing a lot of black-and-white photography, consider investing in a printer that’s optimized for mono output. Canon’s top-of-the-range PIXMA Pro-1 offers five-ink monochrome printing, although at around $800 it doesn’t come cheap!

About the author

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *