Black and white photography is a genre that revolves around thoughtful concepts, eye-catching subjects, and clever points of view. It embraces light, shadows, and fascinating patterns. It’s not a surprise, then, that many photographers rely on this genre to enhance some of their best photographs.
Colorless images direct the viewer’s eye and compel every element of the photo to work in harmony. Since there are no harsh or distracting colors, it’s easy to create a masterpiece. Cleverly using these elements in your photographs will make your entire portfolio stand out. By showing your clients that you can work with all kinds of color-related limitations, you’ll strengthen your artistic reputation.
Some artists prefer to take photos in b&w mode, while others depend on desaturating tools provided by editing programs. If you’re not sure which option will suit you best, keep this comparison in mind:
- A world without color is otherworldly and foreign, something that very few of us see with our own eyes. If you’d like to experience that firsthand, shoot in b&w mode.
- Shooting in color will make it harder to imagine what the desaturated results will look like. This is reminiscent of old film photography, when viewfinders showed only what was really there and gave photographers the job of intense visualization. Additionally, if you’d rather pick what to desaturate after a shoot, stick to your favorite editing program.
The Shooting Process
Whether you’re shooting in b&w mode or embracing color, watch out for compelling elements. Black and white photography can’t enhance everything. Certain photos may look better in color, while others really stand out after being converted.
Black & white photography is ideal for highlighting interesting contrasts, softening complicated light, intensifying shadows, and bringing harmony to very detailed photographs. Keep an eye out for these elements as you take photos.
Here are a few more examples of things that look particularly appealing in b&w mode:
- Eyes (closeups and portraits are equally striking)
- Textures (clothes, wrinkles, rough landscapes)
- Symmetry (trees, architecture, silhouettes)
- Blurred movements (often featured in nostalgic/abstract photos)
- Light particles (dust, rain on a sunny day, water mixed with light)
The Editing Process
Even if your images are already black and white, there’s still lots of room for enhancement. A few things to look out for in your editing program are contrast, shadows, highlights, clarity, sharpening, and grain.
If you’re going for a moody look, darken your image by increasing its contrast. This will make your photo darker, highlighting elements that would have been easy to ignore in a colored shot.
To create striking monochrome portraits, gently increase every setting. Increasing clarity will makes your subject’s entire face stand out and intensify features like eyes and freckles. You may want to remove shadows to give your portrait a lighter atmosphere.
A nostalgic, film-like effect can be achieved by increasing grain and adding a single color to your image. In Lightroom, there are two ways to add saturation:
- Tone Curve: choose red, green, or blue and gently move the curve. You can even combine several curves to create unique results with a very nostalgic feel.
- Split Toning: this will allow you to focus on your image’s highlights and shadows separately. Once you select a hue, gently increase the saturation for a mild yet effective results.
Black and white photography will enhance your portfolio, allow you to look at the world from a new point of view, and help you highlight important subjects without drowning them in color. As in any photography genre, it encourages artists to feel. Observe your surroundings, visualize the results you’d be proud to have, and make them come to life with the help of this timeless and inspiring genre.