In an age of digital photography, a lot of us appreciate the visual impact and elegance of black and white photography when juxtaposed with color photography. Black and White photography is not simply a result of old technology of a bygone era. Black and white is a technique that we can still employ today to enhance our photography. With black and white photography, we are allowed to see the world beyond colors. With black and white photography, we can control moods. With black and white photography, we can highlight details we normally would not see in color. Ultimately, with black and white photography, it is a technique that can enhance our ability to tell our story through imagery. However, unlike color photography, many of us have trouble creating artistic or compelling black and white photos.

Thus, this will be a beginner's guide to black and white photography. In this Instructables, we will learn to think in black and white, learn how to set up our camera, look at some examples of how we can use black and white photography to enhance our craft and lastly, we will look at some post processing tips. Techniques and opinions in this guide should not be taken as hard rules for black and white photography or photography in general. There are no absolute rules in photography, only suggestions. Experiment and see what works for you. Discover your own style.

  • Point and shoot digital camera or DSLR
  • A basic understanding of photography principle
  • A computer
  • Post processing software (Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, Gimp, iPhoto, etc)
  • and most important curiosity to learn

Step 1: Thinking in Black and White

Before we start taking photos of things we think will look good in black and white, we need to be able to think in black and white.
How do we do this? The following are a few areas to think about before you should click your shutter button.

Learn how light works. Photography is the art of capturing light. Without light, there would be no photography. The basic light principles have been the same since the first cameras came about. A medium, either film or a sensor captures light changed over time. Seeing how light is hitting the subject wil affect contrast. Brighter environments then to provide lighter tones of gray to white, and the opposite is true, less light appears darker or black in black and white photography. Remember you can control light with your shutter, aperture, and ISO

Black and white photos are not just black and white, there are many shades or tones of gray. Thus, when thinking about black and white compositions, remember that colors will be implied and exist. Colors could be used to your advantage. Color tones could be altered when converting to black and white. With the example image, the green moss is not present in the photo due to it being a dark shade of green. so the green blends in to the rocks. If the photo was colored, the rocks would not be as striking as the green moss will become more of a distraction.

In black and white photography, there are no colors. Everything is presented as white, tones of gray and black. Try to see the world or find subjects with in terms of contrast. Contrast is defined as the difference between the tones. Photos with high contrast means there is a lot of white and blacks, but very little shades of gray. Low contrast photos appear mostly black or white with some grey. Most photos are just normal contrast with a mix of black, white and grey tones. How do we see this contrast played out in the color worked? Many photographers prefer high contrast black and white photos as they create a stronger subject. However, lower contrast photos can also be useful in softening the subject. The photo example is a high contrast photo. High contrast photos tend to provide very striking outlines of the subject. The black rocks are being outlined by the white mist of the water. Composition wise, the black rocks in the mist creates an atmosphere of mystery.

My opinion is less is more with the photo composition. Try not to clutter the photo with too many details. A single strong subject is easier on the eyes when creating a message or story. This is more true for black and white. A beautiful and vivid landscape will be various shades of gray in black and white and may be more confusing in black and white.

Post Processing
Have an idea on how you plan to process the photo since what you see when you take the photo, might not represent what you want as your final result.

Have these things in mind and composing a better black and white photo will be easier. These are not all the things to consider about black and white composition, but its a start to get you thinking in black and white. Remember to practice and figure out what works for you.
This is really good photography. I really like the black and white because it points out the light and dark parts of a picture. With color in the first one, it would destroy the focal point, but with black and white it puts that at the focal point.
Most of the photos of my youth where black, and white outdoor photos. Because color wasn't affordable. outdoor, because flash bulbs, and the batteries they require where also unaffordable. Your instructable is done well enough so the average snapshot photographer follow, if they wish to experiment. Because of that it should also be helpful to the artists that use the medium of photography. For the rest of us, if we took B&W photos, and showed them to other, we would be asked why they are in B&W. People are used to seeing old B&W photos, but expect to see new photos in color.
Good information. However I haven't made the crossover from film to digital. I am intermediate talent and love B&W. Do my own darkroom work and there is nothing like it for me. Just a casual comment about digital B&W and my own personal observation. There is a distinct difference. Digital looks too perfect and seems to lack "pop". The one pic in your Instructable that I would consider having "pop" is the leading one where there is a lot of light energy. For what it's worth, my 2 cents.
Thanks for the comment. <br>I'm glad you enjoy your craft. I commend you for processing your own photos. <br>I shot film prior to digital, so I understand that the images of digital have a different &quot;feel&quot; to them vs film. However regarding the pop, I think thats more of a subjective matter or personal preference. Pop, like many things in photography, its an endless debate. What I try focus on with digital photography is what is possible with the medium, and not its limitation. Mind that digital photography has only been mainstream for a short period of time when compared to film. It will take us awhile before we can figure out what we can really do with digital photography and how to take advantage of it. <br><br>Recently, Xerox tried to determine the aesthetic quality with software. Im sure it will fuel more debates: https://services.open.xerox.com/WebApp2.svc/aesthetic-search/index.php

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