How to Effectively Make Black and White Photography




Introduction: How to Effectively Make Black and White Photography

Taking and producing an effective photo is a lot more than just point and shoot. In order to take effective photographs of your subject(s) you must meet some specific conditions and carry out helpful photo taking techniques. By the end of this instructable you will have a better understanding of what means to photograph an image and be on your way to making great and effective black and white photography.


Camera - You will of course need a camera to capture your images. A DSLR camera would be optimal as you are able to take full control of your camera's settings in manual mode however, it is not mandatory. A normal point and shoot camera will be fine for this, even cell phone cameras can be used but not recommended.

Photo editing software - If you are not shooting your pictures in the monochrome setting on the camera then you will need photo editing software to convert your image from colour into black and white, e.g, Adobe Photoshop.

Tripod (optional) - Helps to stabilize your camera when shooting. Useful when taking pictures with a long shutter speed.

Cable Release (optional) - Also helps when stabilizing your camera when taking a pictures, you will not have to use your hand to take the picture with the camera and as a result, shake the camera.

Step 1: Taking Your Photo

Now that you've got all your equipment, it is now time to set up and take your photo. Before taking your photo you will need to decide on the camera settings you will need to use in order to capture an effective photograph. What these settings must be depends on the environment in which you are photographing. If you want to have full control over your image later on with black and white settings shoot in colour NOT monochrome.

There are few camera settings you are going to want to focus on when shooting:

  • ISO - Controls the sensor sensitivity of the camera. You should always try to shoot with a low ISO (50-200), but when shooting objects that are moving a fair bit the ISO can be increased. The higher the ISO, the grainier a photo will appear which reduces the photos overall quality.
  • Aperture - Controls the depth of field of the photograph. The higher the aperture, the deeper the depth of field becomes. The apertures on most cameras usually have an average range from f4.1 - f32. Shoot with a low aperture to capture and focus on objects in the shallow part of your environment.
  • Shutter Speed - Controls how long the shutter of the camera is opened for. The longer the shutter speed, the more light is let into the camera. When photographing a darker scene it is good to shoot with a long shutter speed to capture all the light you need to create your photograph.
  • White Balance - Match your white balance with the main type of light source/lighting in your scene to correct the colour of your images.

All of these individual settings can be accessed through your camera's manual mode indicated on the camera selection wheel with a capital "M". Be sure to adjust your settings so that your manual exposure bar is directly on zero. If it is not on zero, your photo is either over-exposed or under-exposed.

Step 2: Editing Your Colour Image: Channel Mixer

Once you have photographed an image you are happy with you are ready to edit it using your photo editing software. For this tutorial We will be using Adobe Photoshop as an example.

  1. Open your image up in the program
  2. Open up the channel mixer by going to layer > new adjustment layer > channel mixer
  3. Select monochrome
  4. Adjust the RGB sliders until you have found a setting you are satisfied with. Make sure that the settings you have concluded with all add up to 100% to maintain the exposure of the photo.

What the channel mixer allows you to do is make your photo darker or lighter overall to obtain a more visually appealing monochrome photo.

Step 3: Editing Your Colour Image: Curves

  1. After adjusting your RGB sliders and finding a satisfying setting it is time to adjust the curves
  2. Go to layer > new adjustment layer > curves
  3. Click on the pointer you see right below the word "preset" and hover over parts of the photo that show up on the graph low and adjust them. The main goal of this is to emphasize your subject but still keeping a nice blend between all the shades between black and white. You want extremes of both light and dark in your photo and you want to avoid having a photo that is just pure grey, it makes your photo dull and not visually appealing. "S" curves will be typical but look more for tonality when adjusting the curves.
  4. Once you are satisfied you can close the curves adjustment tab

Step 4: Extra Editing (Dodge and Burn, Effects)

If you still find that your photograph has more potential you can further edit your photograph by using the dodge and burn tools on the sidebar as shown to enhance shadows and lighten certain parts of your photo. You can also add other effects to your photographs such as mirror photographing as I have done with my photograph. This effect works best when taking advantage of the rule of thirds to create depth and create an overall more interesting photo to look at rather than a normal straight on picture.

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    5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the tutorial. I hope we see more from you in the future!