Home Photography Tips #2 - Black & White

April 01, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Following on from yesterday's tips on Light and carrying them into today's, this one is about black & white photography.  Black and white photos have a timeless quality and can transform your images into something else entirely.  It forces the viewer to observe the basics elements of the image in limited tones as it has been stripped of colour.  You focus in on the shapes, the contrast and the feeling.  With this photo we're left wondering what Imogen is thinking in this very rare moment of... well, not moving at 100mph, but also a beautiful, elegant portrait.

Black and white portrait of girlBlack and white portrait of girl

When To Use Black & White

After finishing a wedding I will have 1000+ images to edit but no set number of photos that I will convert to black & white.  Some images do not work as black & white (ok, I'm abbreviating to 'b&w' for the rest of this..!) as you've taken the shot to specifically show the colour, like a new dress or the weather. 

Things I always avoid changing to b&w are flowers and food.  Whilst some flower shots make nice fine art images I like to keep the colour in mine, but that's a personal thing.  Food though.. without the colour it's like taking the taste away before your eyes! 

Sometimes I'll use b&w to hide an ugly red fire extinguisher, mask some disco lights on faces or an exit sign that will blend in to the background rather than stick out like a sore thumb, or if the lighting in the room is bad then a b&w can even it out. 

Without colour you will need to find new ways to attract attention and create interest.  These can be done with the following -

  1. Contrast - look at the darkest and lightest part of the image and see how they work together without colour
  2. Shapes - create some interesting shapes that lead the eye into the photo
  3. Texture - clothing, hair, skin, grass, clouds... all have their own texture and can create interest
  4. Patterns - Repeating patterns really compliment b&w because of its simplicity. Look for contradicting shapes like lines and circles

All smartphones are able to convert photos to b&w so experiment to see what works.  Compact & DSLR cameras have the option to shoot in b&w but I wouldn't recommend this if you have Photoshop as it can be converted then, and you can't add colour back if you need to.

Don't forget to combine what you've learned from the tips on Light previously and try to apply some of the above and you'll have some excellent images to show off! If you want some additional editing options then you can download the Photoshop app to your phone or tablet.

Below are some other shots which cover what I've discussed.  Let me know what you think and feel free to share your photos and ask any questions.

Portrait of bride in mirror getting readyPortrait of bride in mirror colour to b&wcolour to b&w

Pattern of pools at Millenium Square in BristolPatterns of pool Spaceman in spacesuit helmetSpaceman in spacesuit helmet Portrait of woman facing the sunPortrait of woman facing the sun

Bride and groom kiss in Cheap Street in Bath after weddingBride and groom kiss in Bath

BONUS TIP!

Use the 'Rule of Thirds' when composing your shots by placing your subject or point of interest on the intersecting lines (circled red).  This will create a more pleasing image to the eye.  Some cameras and phones have this option to show on the display to help when taking your shot.

Rule-of-Thirds-GridRule-of-Thirds-Grid

 

 


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