Why shoot in Black and White when you have the camera equipment capable of shooting rich colours. This is the question which lingers in the mind of many photographers when they hear about Black and White photography. In the early days of photography, there were no color photographs. So, it all started with Black and Whites.

Why do Black and White Photography?

You can bring more feel to an image when you shoot in Black and White. This doesn’t mean that you can convert all your images to Black and White to give it a good feel. It brings the texture, contrast and shape of the subjects beautifully. If you ask any experienced photographer then they would tell that one can see the quality of light in a monochrome image. Many great photographers like an Ansel AdamsDavid Yarrow shoot in Black and White.

Camera Settings for Black and White Photography

Let us see, How to shoot in Black and White? In order to use this, you need to enable the Monochrome mode in your camera. In modern DSLR cameras, this mode can be seen under the “Picture Style” section.

If you are shooting in RAW then you can later convert it into Black and white using any post processing software like Adobe Lightroom. You can also fine tune the image and will get a better image quality. JPEG is a compressed format. So, you will lose image quality when you do editing. So go for the RAW format.

When to Shoot in Black and White?

This question seems to be strange. If you know the situation where you should go for a Monochrome image you can get the best out of it. If you start clicking everything in monochrome then you may lose some great photo opportunities in colour.

So you should develop a sense to know when to use it. In order to develop this, you need to see the thing in Monochrome. Either you need to visualize the same scene in Black and White or you need to use a grey glass or dark glass. You can see through these glass pieces to get a monochromatic feel.

7 Elements Of Black and White photography

Let us have a look at the 7 elements which makes up a beautiful monochrome image. You can fine tune these elements using camera filters in the field or using a post processing software like Lightroom. It will help to create a good image.

1. Contrast

This is the first important element for a Black and White photograph. The feel of an image changes with the change in contrast. A high contrast image is better in some situation whereas a low contrast image in other. This will come through experience only. So you need to start shooting in Black and White from now onwards. Examples of a high contrast image is shown below.

Black and White Photography Highlights

A long exposure photo captured in Black and White. A High Contrast Image Situation with light streaks in dark

80 per cent of the time, a High Contrast Image works better for a Monochrome Image. Make sure that you don’t overdo the Contrast thing.

What will happen if you increase the contrast by too much? You will lose the details in Shadows and burn the highlights.

2. Texture

Black and White Photography Texture

Texture in a Leather sheet captured in Black and White. If you try to capture this in colour then you won’t be able to bring the viewer’;s attention on the texture. they will get carried away by the tanned brown color of the leather alone.

Certain images which contain lots of textures looks good in Black and White when compared to Color. This style of photography brings out the textures beautifully. If you want to bring the viewers eye into textures and patterns then go for this. For example who you are shooting patterns in a rock or from any surface. It would look better in Monochrome.

3. Shadows

Shadow is one of the key elements of a black and White photograph. So, if you come across any scene with strong shadows then it is a good contender to be shot in Monochrome.

Black and White Photography Shadows

There are good shadows as well as bad shadows. Your success depends on identifying the good shadows which adds to the feel of the picture.

How to look for Good Shadows?

If shadow has a shape or pattern which blends with the scene then you have got an interesting Black and White frame to shoot.

Another thing about a shadow is, it changes shape with angles. So, you should try from different angles to see the variation in the shape of the shadow. In this way, you can get the best angle for the shot.

4. Highlight

For a Monochrome Image, Highlights are similar to Shadows.  You can’t just capture all the Shadows in a scene to create a breathtaking image. You need to have the highlights in the scene too. They complement each other.

Black and White Photography Highlights

The major part of the image is occupied by the Smoke. Photographer has emphasized on capturing the Highlights in the smoke, leaving a dark black background

There are photographers who emphasize on details in highlights. if you go through their images you would find that the details in Shadows are missing in many images. This is their style.

So, there are no hard and fast rules. You can develop your own style in Black and White Photography.

5. Tones

How do you deal with the tones in a monochrome image? This is a little tricky. Sometimes when you shoot an image you may get almost the same tone for different colours. This is because your camera is converting the colour into shades of grey. So, certain colours may look the same.

One way to deal with this situation is to use camera filters. Another way is to use digital filters during post processing. The tones have a great impact on Black and White photography. The right tone can do wonders for your capture.

6. Shapes

Shapes can create points of interest. You would have learnt the impact of shadows. The shape of the shadow is equally important. Shapes can strengthen as well as weaken your compositions.

How do you differentiate the shapes? You can do this by playing with contrast. If you apply a high contrast to an image then you are actually making the shapes look more prominent and vice versa.  Too much of contrast to emphasize on the shape can look awkward too. There should be a balance always.

Black and White Photography Shapes

Here the photographer has used the shapes of water bubbles to create this interesting Black and White photo.

For unique Black and White images, you should see the shapes which others miss and you should miss the shapes which others see. Shapes are tied to contrast, no to tones. Don’t get confused.

7. Patterns

Black and White Photography Shapes

Patterns of Cobbleblocks on Road captured in Black and White. Photographer has used a narrow Depth of Field to create the blur effect for the half of the scene.

Patterns can bring more value to Black and White photography. You should develop the skill to find interesting patterns in nature. It can be found in rocks, trees in the forest, building structure, tiger skin and many more.

So, now you would have got some ideas to create beautiful Black and White Photos. The key to get good shots in Monochrome is to see in Black and White.