Black and white photography is very much its own art form. The process of creating black and white images requires the photographer to think and see differently. Even the viewer’s experience is a different one. Black and white is an especially dramatic and impactful medium. By applying a few basic principles, you can create stronger, more compelling black and white imagery. Digital cameras offer so many creative possibilities and black and white imaging benefits greatly with today’s technology.
The first step to improving your photography is to shoot in a RAW format, whenever possible. The RAW file is your digital negative and it gives you the most creative control over the final image. Adjust your camera’s white balance, as this is particularly important with black and white imaging. Shoot in color mode, then convert your image to grayscale in post. Use the lowest ISO setting possible. This helps keep detail sharp and noise to a minimum.
Composition is fundamental to strong black and white image-making. Be mindful of the rule of thirds, but don’t apply it mechanically. Use visual weight to create balance or tension in your composition. Look for interesting patterns and textures, strong converging lines, and contrasting light and shadow. Think and see in black and white. Look for scenes with a wide range of tones. Does a particular shot call for a shallow depth-of-field or is sharpness throughout the image a preferable choice? Experiment. Try different lens focal lengths. Bracket your shots. Many digital cameras allow you to do this automatically.
Neutral Density Filters reduce the amount of light entering the camera and increase exposure times. They are used to create the veiled effect of flowing water and soft clouds. ND filters decrease depth-of-field by allowing wider apertures. They are also used to decrease the ISO setting in bright situations. A Neutral Density filter can reduce the light up to several stops, permitting very long exposures. Use a tripod on any exposure longer than 1/30 second, and lock up the mirror and use a cable release or self-timer to eliminate camera shake. Also, be sure all image-stabilization is turned off whenever the camera is on a tripod. This will give you the sharpest possible detail.
I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. If there is a particular topic you would like to see covered, please contact me and I will attempt to address it in a future post.
Until next time, happy image-making…