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black and white photos – how to take them professionally?

tips – photography

black and white photos – how to take them professionally?

We live in a colorful world. Everything that surrounds us is colored, while black and white photography must reflect this color image in a monochrome manner. This has been the case for over a hundred years since its inception, although the first attempts with color photos took place around 1855.

Black and white photos – how to start?

Creating black and white photography requires the photographer to look at objects differently. Looking at the form, texture, shapes and tones so that the viewer’s attention is not distracted by color. It is a difficult task precisely because you have to completely change over. That is probably why photographers are so reluctant to combine two photo sessions – color and black and white. Each of them requires a completely different approach to the subject. Light plays a key role in this situation, but also colors and contrasts. A color photo of, for example, red sails against a blue sky will look completely different than the same frame, but in black and white. In the latter case, the photo will appear flat, gray and lifeless – and color photography will beautifully reproduce all the contrasts. The level of contrast in black and white photography is a very important factor. Too large – the image becomes irritating, the contrast is too small – the photo will be flat.


What to photograph

Everything! This is of course true, but there are situations in which the choice of the black and white convention is even self-imposed. For example, when photographing grayness, i.e. what, after subtracting the colors, will not lose its expression, attractiveness (even landscapes of uniform tonality illuminated by the diffused light of the sky tightly covered with white clouds), and maybe even gain, especially if the colors are bland. Black and white will also work when we do not have full control over the appearance of what we photograph (e.g. an interesting shot is spoiled by color accents in the background or anywhere else, disturbing the reception of the photo).

some of the techniques I use to practice my pre-visualization

Below, I have outlined some of the techniques I use to practice my pre-visualization skills in order to visualize what a given photo will look like in the final black and white version.

  • I take into account the overall monochrome subject (it can be anything from the bush to the door) and pay attention to its lighting. I wonder if I can take a good black and white photo based on the contrast between the highlights and the shadow. If that’s not possible, then I wonder how to change the lighting to make an interesting photo.
  • Sometimes I take a small sketchbook and pencil with me to the set. Before taking a photo, I try to sketch out the basic shapes that I see in the image. I don’t care at all about the quality of my drawing. In many cases, this allows me to clarify essential aspects of the composition I am trying to create.
  • When looking at a potential photo on the camera’s LCD screen, I try to visualize the image in black and white. In my mind, I try to create as black and white areas as possible. What happens when the darkness turns completely black? What happens when the lighter areas turn completely white? What will be the result of doing both at the same time?


As a side note:

it is worth noting that the pre-visualization is not an end in itself. It is a tool that allows you to create better images with more control over the result. However, one should not fall into the trap of excluding alternative possibilities when processing photos. Very often, the most interesting photos are taken while “walking on circular roads”. Test, teach is the best way to get great photos.

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