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:

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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!