DPS Bites: Black & White Photography

5 Tips For Better Black & White Photography

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Black & white photography is an art form in itself, it can be considered by many to be the pinnacle of photography, as often you have to do so much more with less. Aside from it’s own unique aesthetic, black & white, depending on how it is used, can make an image striking & hard hitting & can also be used to romanticize images, while allowing the photographer to experiment with moods & feels that are easy to communicate as they are not watered down or obstructed with colour.

Know When To Shoot Black & White:

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This is one of the more simple considerations & one that is often over-looked. Ask yourself what makes a good black & white image? A technical breakdown would see the image broken into shape, form, texture, tone, contrast & pattern,  but this can be answered very easily by any photographer looking at a scene. Next time when looking through your viewfinder & wondering if this image would look good in black &  white, ask yourself , what is the most striking thing about this view? If colour is the first word that pops into your head, then more that likely it is a black & white image.

Texture Is King:

texture in black and white photography

Have you ever noticed how anything old tends to look great in black & white? This is mainly for two reasons, the first one is, this is a stylistic choice, old things look “authentic” in an old fashioned medium, however also things that are old tend to have some city miles on them & are often covered in scratches & dust. These objects or scenes look great in black & white becuase there are ‘textures’ in the absence of colour. A strong texture will add a striking tactile quality to your image. Have a look at some black & white images online & you will see strong textures in a lot of them.


toning in black and white photography

Very few images are what we call ‘true black & white images’. Even in the days of printing in a darkroom, there was no such thing as a truly neutral print, as the age of the paper & chemical would cause a slight colour cast. With that in mind a lot of impact can be added using toning. Adding a single colour to your image to warm or cool it, can have a dramatic impact with it’s mood and feeling. So, experiment away in lightroom, aperture,  photoshop or whatever editing software you use.

Shoot in Colour & then Convert:

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A lot of people think they are being purists by photographing black & white in camera, however in reality they are doing themselves a terrible dis-service. This setting on your camera only records the the luminosity information & uses 256,000 shades of grey to render the image. While this sounds like a lot, it is actually a tiny amount of information, which means your black & white image with will come out more grey, dull or muddy. Shoot in color & convert in a program like photoshop or silver efex for maximum tonal range.

Shoot in RAW:

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This is not just a Black & white tip, but a photography tip in general. Every image can benefit from being shot in Raw format. There is a host of technical reasons as to why, however suffice to say it makes a massive difference to the contrast & tonal range of the image, as well as allowing maximum flexibility in processing & printing the image. You will need to have a program to convert your raw images to JPEG’s before you can print them.

Bonus Tip:

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Why not come along to a Black & White Photography Workshop  with DPS. While it is not exactly a tip, it will teach you all the skills you need to know to kick your black & white photography to the next level!


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Romania & Transylvania Photography Holiday Highlights

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In September 2017, the DPS team  set out with 22 other photographers of all levels to one of the most remote, untouched and unique areas of Europe, Romania. Landing in Bucharest as the sun was setting, we quickly grab our luggage and board a bus to one of the most  beautiful places in the world. Through the coach window we see jagged cliffs and the outline of slopping wooden tiled houses as we are whisked to our destination. Up and up we travel, corkscrewing our way through small mountain villages until we reach the Transylvanian plateau, which is our base for the next four nights, the old Saxon stronghold town of Brasov.

Settling in for the night our advice is very simple, “have your memory cards empty and your batteries full, as we will hit the ground running in the morning”.

We wake to a stunning sunrise where the weather is still fantastic in September in Romania, 25 degrees  and that is the coolest day! Our day starts with a short tour Brasov. The city is located at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains steeped in history and old world charm with fascinating scenery. The tour takes in the old town hall square, St. Nicholas Church ( the oldest Romanian Orthodox church in the country) and the first Romanian school of Schei, which dates back to 1495, and the Gothic Black Church. We firstly stop at Biserica Sfântul Nicolae a stunning orthadox church and  in a secluded area in the back of the grounds we have our first outdoor lesson.

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For 30 minutes we make sure that everyone is up to speed by covering some basic settings and composition skills.

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Once in Brasov old town square, we break up into smaller groups and the DPS team spend some time with each group and give advice, feedback and direction.

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Don’t Miss Out!

Transylvania Holiday October 11th- 15th 2017

*** Only 3 Places Remaining ***

photography trips to TransylvaniaCome travel with us to Romania the largest of the Balkan nations. It is a land of stunning mountain scenery, unspoiled countryside and historic towns, making it a fantastic holiday destination for anyone looking to develop their documentary, street and landscape photography skills. Based in the charming, historic town of Brasov for four nights, you will have the opportunity to photograph the remarkable landscapes of the Transylvania region as you travel high into the Carpathian Mountains, taking in impressive vistas and lake views. You will also visit the picturesque medieval town of Viscri, famous for its traditional houses and Saxon fortified church, and Sighisoara, with its impeccably preserved hilltop citadel. Of course, no stay in Transylvania would be complete without a visit to the imposing fortress of Dracula’s Castle.



We spend the first half of the day working some basic skills before breaking for lunch and then regrouping before we head up into the beautiful Tampa Mountains where we have amazing panoramic views or the entire city of Brasov.

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We spend the next few hours exploring the infamous Castle Bran, ( castle is mentioned in Bram Strokers Dracula ) taking tight stair wells and losing ourselves in rooms from another time,  a time that seems to step right out of a fairy tale. Romania is dotted with these Germanic style Gothic revival castles.

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The group then regroups 30 minutes before sunset to photograph Castle Bran under the velvet blue veil of night.

After a long day we arrive back in Brasov, some of the group rest up and some head into Brasov to experience the local night life.


Day three takes us on another adventure but before  we travel out  along one of the most spectacular mountain roads in the world, the Transfagarasan Road and into the impressive Fagaras Mountains (commonly known as The Transylvanian Alps), we make a short stop at the Fagaras Fortress and the beautifully impressive gold domed Orthodox cathedral to capture some of it’s beauty.  When back on the road, we navigate up twisting winding roads of sheer drops and stunning heights, expertly handled by our driver. We stop along the way to take in some of the most stunning vistas. Before reaching our destination and our highest point,  Lake Balea, a glacier lake which is situated within the Fagaras Mountains at 2042metres above the sea level, our group breaks for lunch. After we are fed and watered we head out to our chosen location to get some of the best shots that Balea Lake has to offer. Here we give detailed tuition on filters, tripods, remote, settings, exposure and composition. The group then have some free time to seek out their own shots and compositions.  Before returning back to Brasov as the sun is setting, stop once again to photograph the impressive winding roads of the Transfagarasan. The remainder of the evening was spent at leisure, a most welcome break after  a busy day.

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Day four takes us north to Sighisoara, a beautifully preserved medieval town set in rolling countryside and a UNESCO World Heritage site steeped in legend, and the birth place of Vlad the Impaler (the warlord that Bram Strokers  character Dracula is based on). We start with a short  walking tour through the cobbled streets viewing many highlights including the Church on the Hill and the impressive Clock Tower, which dates back to the 13th century. Each day a different wooden figure emerges from the belfry on the stroke of midnight and a drummer strikes every hour. This location is a little different in terms of tuition, here we introduce some ideas around setting themes and conventions, as well  reading and communicating an image. The guys are both delighted and challenged as this gives them a way of seeing things with a different twist. After a review during our exploration of the town, everybody excels and produces a fantastic array of images.

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We reboard the bus  and travel onwards to the traditional Saxon village of Viscri. Viscri  is  an amazing site that seems to almost have stepped out of time, with handcrafts and traditional agriculture that has not changed in generations. It is home to a stunning fortified church. We split up and wander this unique and fascinating town, that is full of friendly faces and detailed crafts, before re-boarding the bus back to Brasov.

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It is our last evening in Romania so many of us experience the night life and have a well earned local dinner. We depart early the next morning  with out take away breakfast in hand, and just as we think our adventure is over, we make one more stop. We head for Peles Castle on route to the airport and find it lit up in the amazing misty sunrise.

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DPS Bites: Night Photography

5 Tips For Better Night Photographs

night photography courses dublinNight photography is a massive genre & can cover a huge range of subjects from astro photography & light painting, to landscapes taken under moonlight, traffic light trails & everything in between. Each one of these specific styles has it’s own rules & techniques that are popular among there practitioners, however this article is aimed at the beginner venturing out at night to photograph things like cityscapes with light & traffic trails. So, if you have just managed to get you head around ISO, F-stops & Shutter Speeds, then you will be well on your way to nailing down traffic trails & night cityscapes.

Use A Tripod:night photography dublin

Like any good landacape shoot, night photography starts with a tripod. When using a tripod you are able to keep your camera steady & can use much longer shutter speeds without camera shake. The longer your shutter is open, the more chance you will have of creating traffic trails & turning any movement into ghosting.  Tripods range in price & quality &  finding the right one for you may requirs some decent research. Two tripods that Dublin Photography School recommend are, the  Hahnel Triad Lite 60 Tripod & Manfrotto Compact Action Tripod . You can order them here (cheeky plug). When looking for a tripod it should satisfy a very simple requirement ….it has to be stable enough to keep your camera steady, after that, material, style, height, head & brand are a matter of personal preference.

Use A Low ISO:

Something that surprises many newbie photographers is using a low ISO….they have learned that a high ISO is used in dark & low light conditions & yes that is generally true (if you are shooting hand held at night), however since you went to all the hassle of dragging your tripod into town, you might as well achieve the best reuslts by using a low ISO. Your image will have less noise & less grain, & by creating longer shutter speeds you will add more creativity to your shot.

White Balance:

awb night photography

Most cameras by default are set to AWB (automatic white balance) & while this does a good job for about 99% of scenes, it will struggle to get colours correct at night, as the scene will be lit by multiple light sources, for example headlights, neon lights, traffic lights & street lights. This can easily confuse any camera system. The solution is simple however, you can change the white balance in your camera to match the scene. Try setting your camera to ‘Incandescent or Tungsten’ to eliminate that strong orange colour in your night images. Make sure to set it back to AWB when you are finished night shooting.

Try Using Manual Focus:

Many cameras will struggle to achieve focus in low light situations & how much it will struggle will depend on a couple of things. Firstly, how well lit up the scene is & the second is the camera model itself. To get around this & to make sure you have full control of your image, try turning on your camera’s manual focus & adjust the focus to the most prominent subject of interest in your scene. If you are not sure, simply focus one third of your scene as this will put a large amount of your scene into clear focus. Again remember to turn back on your ‘auto focus’ when finished, as it may result in all your images being out of focus when photographing later if you don’t.

Turn Off VR, IS, OS or SS:

night photography tripod

Image stabilization systems are designed for producing sharper handheld shots by utilizing tiny motors that cancel handshake & barrel vibration. This works fantastically & should always be left on when shooting handheld, however when used with a tripod, these motors  can actually cause the image to be slightly softened & look unsharp. So, remember switch it off while you have it on a tripod & then turn it back on once you have finished shooting.

Bonus Tip:

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Why not  join the 7 week Beginners Course  at Dublin photography School. It includes two on location night shoots.


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Thursday Talk by Martin Cregg – ‘An Introduction To Documentary Photography’

In Case You Missed It!

Dublin Photography School recorded Martin Cregg’s ‘Thursday Talk’ and  it is now available as a free podcast, ‘HERE’. Available also is  a free download of the presentation given on the  night by Matin so you can follow along.

We here at Dublin Photography School were delighted to host Martin’s talk – ‘An Introduction to Documentary Photography’. Evident throughout the entire evening was his honest passion for photography, his knowledge and his expert delivery. There was a fantastic turn out on the night with over 45 people in attendance, with all levels and genres of photographers represented.

The team at DPS would like to thank Martin for the work, time and effort that he put into the talk and we look forward to bringing you more ‘Thursday Talks’ in the Future #dublinphotographyschool


Martin Cregg Martin Cregg is a documentary photographer and lecturer living in Dublin. He has exhibited in Ireland and also internationally. Martin specializes in contemporary documentary photography practice and will give a lecture around an ‘introduction to documentary ideas and different practices of documentary photography’.

Time: 7.30pm
Date: September 28th 2017
Venue: The Carmelite Centre, 56 Aungier Street, Dublin 2.

Martin has exhibited in Ireland and Internationally – recently at ‘Heillandi’ Switzerland (2016), ‘Gazebook’ Sicily (2016), ‘Illuminations’ NUIM (2014), PhotoIreland (2013) Les Rencontres d’Arles (July 2012), the Natural History Museum in Leeuwarden (July 2012) and in Shanghai as part of the ‘Postcards from The Celtic Tiger’  Group show. In 2011 his ‘Photo Course’ project was shortlisted for the FOAM Talent Call. Cregg’s work has been published in a variety of magazines and books including ‘Ireland and Photography’ and Magazines such as Source and Irish Arts Review,

R.S.V.P by emailing info@dublinphotographyschool.ie to secure your  place
Please book early as places are limited & it will fill up fast