Photography For Beginners: Tips For Black and White Photography.
Good black and white photography doesn’t rely on special equipment or techniques. Instead, photographers need to consider new ways of selecting and relating to subjects to find special characters that are so unique to black and white photography.
Black and white photography is attractive to many people. Even non-photographers often find themselves drawn to good black and white images. When you start working with black and white photography, you may find characters in your subject that are not so easily revealed in color photographs.
For many digital photographers, black and white photographs are nothing more than software-converted color photography. It is a matter for your own judgment as to whether this is effective for your photos. Often images that you assume will be beautifully converted to black and white will prove disappointment; sometimes photos you never imagined will surprise you.
However, most serious photographers will tell you that black and white photos are best taken when the photographer deliberately sets with a black and white image in mind. This creates a completely different mindset when it comes to how you choose and approach your subject. You could, for example, begin to see potential in a subject you wouldn’t normally consider for color photography.
If you’ve never gotten serious about using black and white photography, here are a few simple tips to get you started.
Black and White Photography Tip # 1. Choose a subject.
Some subjects lend themselves to color but are not nearly as effective in black and white. Sunsets, for example, are really all about color, so they rarely produce good black and white images. Colorful birds, flowers, fashion … there are many times when the only logical approach is to shoot your subject in color. On the other hand, some subjects are ideally suited for black and white photography.
Since this is an ‘ancient’ medium, it often works well with ancient subjects. Rustic items like old farm equipment, tumble-down shacks, old wooden fences can all make great subjects for black and white photos.
When photographing people, age can also be a factor. Close-up portraits of old faces showing all the lines and folds of their years on earth can have a much bigger impact in black and white.
This can only be a short article, so these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll find lots of great subjects once you start thinking in black and white.
Black and White Photography Tip # 2. ‘See’ your subject in black and white.
When you first approach your subject, you need to imagine how it would look colorless. Try to see it in terms of lines and shapes, shadows and contrast. You will begin to see your subject in a whole new light. You may even find yourself zooming in on a certain feature, or shooting a subject from an angle you may not have considered in the past. One thing is certain; once you get into the ‘black and white headroom’ your camera will express the character of the subject in a completely different way.
Black and White Photography Tip # 3. Use lights to increase impact. Because black and white photos rely heavily on shadows to define shapes and details, your approach to lighting can make or break an image. As a nature photographer, I often shoot black and white photos that are very different from color photos.
You may have heard the rule that landscape photography is best done early or late on a day when the sun is low and the light is soft and even. Now, in black and white photography I often look for the opposite. To make a better definition of the subjects, I will often take my photos in the middle of the day, to create heavier shadows to emphasize the lines and shapes in the composition. I also prefer to take photos looking directly at the sun, to produce silhouettes that take advantage of trees, windmills, and other strong shapes to the sky.
Earlier I mentioned portraits of very old people. If the lines on the face give the image of the character, you need to make sure the lighting is from an angle that casts a shadow in the crease. As such you may be looking for lighting in black and white photos that will be considered cluttered and unsuitable for color photos.