Even though black and white photography started a long time ago, it’s never been outdated; it grabs the audience’s attention, it is theatrical, and it adds drama and vibrance to the photograph. Why is it that popular till today?
The chiaroscuro contrast of black and white is intertwined with a certain nostalgia, it reminds us of the beginning and evolvement of photography and television too, but in reality, the contrast is visually attractive by bringing out the value of shapes and forms of different subject effectively. Black and white colours can give a picture strong meaning.
To understand what I mean, one should take or view black and white photography of the following subjects:
- Winter landscape
- Urban landscape
- Picture in Raw format and JPEG
- Night photography
Personally I like winter and urban photography the most. That contrast is at the same time poetic and historic. It brings out all the different textures – even the ones that you hardly notice.
My recommendations to take good black and white pictures are simple:
- Shoot RAW + JPEG. The best monochrome (black and white) conversions are made by editing raw files which have the full colour information, but if you shoot raw and JPEG files simultaneously and set the camera to its monochrome Picture Style / Picture Control / Film Simulation mode, you can get an indication of how the image will look in black and white.
- Look for contrast, shape and texture. The complimentary and opposing colours that bring a colour image to life are all reduced to black and white or shades of grey in a monochrome image and you have to look for tonal contrast to make a shot stand out.
- Try long exposure. Long exposure shots can work really well in black and white photography, especially where there’s moving water or clouds.
- Use filters. Graduated neutral density (AKA ND grad) and polarising filters are just as useful in monochrome photography as they are in colour. In fact, because they manipulate image contrast it could even be argued that they are more useful.
- Take control. Although coloured filters can still be used to manipulate contrast when shooting digital black and white images, it’s a better idea to save this work until the processing stage.
- Dodge and burn. This is a technique that comes from the traditional darkroom and is usually used to burn in or darken highlights and hold back (brighten) shadows.
Now you know a few small tricks to take good black and white photographs! Enjoy!
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