We have to admit, there’s something about black and white that makes a photo timeless. When done right, the image seems to transcend boundaries, making it more universal and compelling. It also gives a certain purity to the subject that can be a great start to conversations.
Image Credit: @jontyphotography
Canon EOS 5D Mark III | EF24-105mm F/4L IS USM
If you’re looking at trying out this method of visual expression, let us offer you some tips on how to shoot in black and white photography.
- See it in your mind’s eye first
With B&W photography, the best results come when you can see visualise the final image in your mind. When taking a shot, you need to be able to ‘see’ how it will appear in a B&W world. Interesting details such as varying textures, spaces as well as difference in lighting will be elevated in a B&W picture and less so in a coloured one.
Image Credit: @reuben_ng_black_and_white
One good trick is to convert your current shots into B&W ones to see what works and what doesn’t, while assessing your latent aptitude.
Image Credit: @thesgstreetphoto
2. Look for textures and lines
Without the distraction of colour, the way we see the world is suddenly transformed. Textures and lines become the star of the show. As such, when composing your B&W shot, do keep a lookout of how these elements can garner impact.
Image Credit: @snappii
The play of leading lines and busy textures are always a key draw to great B&W photos, so adjust your composition constantly to give a very graphic and dramatic final presentation.
Image Credit: @shawn.khang.91
3.Great for portraits
When it comes to B&W photography, people make for some of the best subjects. Partially because of the romanticism it evokes, the genre applies well on shots with humans in them; and more so when they are the focus.
When shooting portraits, be aware of how the light falls on your subject’s features. It’s no surprise that the laugh lines of an elderly make for some of the most captivating shots, telling their story through every fold. But it’s not just Mankind that has these fascinating features – look into the animal kingdom with their wide array of patterns and seek inspiration from them too!
Image Credit: @wanderwonder.ling
Canon 1DX M2 | EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM
4. The space around us
That doesn’t mean landscapes or spaces don’t lend themselves well to B&W photography. In these cases, it’s best to play with the forms and lines that present themselves in nature and architecture. From the geometry of flowers and buildings to the organic flow of mountains and roads, present these subjects best by keeping them simple – with a clear background for example.
Image Credit: @yong_hazelle
Canon EOS 60D | EF-S18-200mm F/3.5-5.6 IS
Find your subject, be it on a winding road or a bloom, and place them against a contrasting background (white on black or vice versa) to draw focus. Another tip: Use a polariser to play with reflections and darken skies to achieve a cleaner shot.
Image Credit: @neverbeenwongbefore
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM
5. Contrast is everything
Since so much of B&W photography is about forms, shapes, lines and textures, contrast becomes “key” to a great picture. We’re talking “high-key” and “low-key” lighting here. The first is when the range of contrast is stretched to its maximum, with distinct points of black and white, and often beside each other for a dramatic effect. This is light and shadow play at its best but remember to keep those colours clean and sharp.
The second is when you wish play more with subtle shifts in tonality. Paint with a palette of grays and use them to create surreal and dreamy images.
6. Shoot in RAW and JPEG
Choose to shoot in both the RAW and JPEG format simultaneously, then switch over to your monochromatic settings to get a sense of how your picture will look in black and white. While not the end goal, it will help beginners find their footing during framing. You can also try shooting in HDR to achieve great dynamic range in your photographs.
Image Credit: @roganyeohfotografi
Canon EOS EOS 5D Mark III | EF85mm F/1.4L IS USM
By saving both formats for editing in post production, you will have the coloured images to use as reference while being able to enjoy tweaking RAW files.
7. Isolate your subject
If it gets too overwhelming, try to remove visual distractions from the frame. Place your subject in a “void” but harness the space to create a frame around them. This time, it’s important to remove the unnecessary lines and textures within your composition so that your focus becomes undisputed.
Image Credit: @imagin8tv
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
You can even try long exposure shots to wash out the background, or to blur out competing elements, and keep the attention on your chosen subject under the correct circumstance!
Image Credit: @ahgongz
Canon EOS 760D | EF40mm F/2.8 STM
Are you intrigued to explore this moody theme? Show us your best attempts at Black & White photography and blow us away by tagging your new monochromatic shots using #canonsg for a chance to be featured!