Photography Tips

Be Inspired: Black and White Photography 101

4th June 2020

Black and white photography is the medium of using different tones of grey and allows you to experiment with your photographs in numerous ways. Whether you are a seasoned professional, an enthusiast or a complete beginner, getting to grips with black and white photography can expand your vision and encourage you to try something new. We’ve collated a whole host of black and white photography tips to help you feel less in the dark.

Black and White Photography Basics

Definition: Black and white photography contains variants of the colour grey ranging from absolute black to absolute white.

To get started with black and white photography, we’d suggest looking at the champions of the craft, including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Diane Arbus and Ansel Adams. It’s important to see how photography was portrayed when black and white was the only option and how it has evolved since then. Plus, it’s a great way to get inspired!

Black and white portrait of a child with surrounding plant decor

Camera Settings for Black and White Photography

Many cameras have a ‘black and white‘ setting that you can use to get a proper preview of what you’re shooting. Consider shooting in RAW mode to capture the best image quality. That way, none of the photograph’s information is compressed — and lost forever — as it is with JPEG. Make sure you play around with your exposure settings to make sure that you aren’t losing any of the detail on both ends of the spectrum.

black and white image of a tiger in the wild

The beauty of modern photography is that you can tweak your images post production by using an editing software. This is a great tactic to elevate your black and white photography, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned professional. By increasing the contrast and reducing the brightness, you further enhance the differences in an image’s light and dark tones. Or, reduce the contrast and fade the shadows, providing an underexposed look.

It is preferred to shoot in black and white and then tweak where necessary, as opposed to applying a black and white filter after being shot in colour.

Black and White Wedding Photography

The crisp white dress and the classic black tuxedo lend themselves as perfect subjects of black and white photography, which is why many people choose to have a portion of their wedding photos taken in black and white. Switching between colour and black and white also allows a variety of photographs for a versatile and creative CEWE PHOTOBOOK of the big day.

Bride and groom outfoors in black and white

It is often suggested that black and white wedding photography allows a focus on emotion rather than sole aesthetic. This is based on the idea that removing the colour can allow the viewer to focus more on the interaction within the image. If you’re planning to use or practise black and white photography within your wedding photography, choose a few intimate shots to capture the moment in its rawest form.

Black and White Street Photography

‘To see the world in black and white is different from seeing the world in colour.’ - Eric Kim

When it comes to street photography, black and white allows the image to remain timeless, which plays a massive role when capturing a moment in such a busy environment. Anything from fashion, to advertisements and hair styles can signify a specific date in history, and black and white photography will encourage the photo to last the test of time. If you’d rather focus on the subject rather than create a representation of the date the photo is taken, black and white is one way to experiment.

A collection of 5 black and white prints, framed and hung on a wall
Framed Prints

Something to note when practising black and white street photography is how important lighting is as the lack of colour automatically turns light into the main subject. To make sure that you’re crafting the light to complement your photo, follow the light first and then search for suitable subjects that can fill the frame. You may even find that the light itself is already so impressive that it doesn’t need any other element in the image to be interesting enough.

Black and White Portrait Photography

Black and white photography is very popular when it comes to taking portraits – and it’s not hard to see why. Although simple, the delicate balance of light and shadow can communicate meaning in a powerful way and can reveal a lot about the subject and who they are.

It is especially powerful in street photography as you will be in a situation where you are exposed to people from all walks of life with their own story to tell.

Black and white portrait photography doesn’t need to be complicated to be impressive – in fact, it benefits from taking a simple, relaxed approach. After all, street photography is about capturing busy, yet natural, images – whether that’s a subject or a landscape.

When the image is all about the subject, the background can turn into a complementary negative space that allows the person(s) in the photo to have breathing room.

Preserve Your Black and White Photography

Whether you have wedding photos that you’d like to preserve for a lifetime, have experimented with your black and white photography skills, or just want to reminisce over your favourite holiday, then a CEWE PHOTOBOOK will help you to do so.

Creative Tip: If you have dived into black and white photography and would like to print your photos, we would recommend using a Matte Photographic paper. This is because the matte finish showcases every last detail and isn’t compromised by a high shine.

adding monochrome images to a photo book from CEWE. Printing black and white images

From portfolios of photography to family memories, take the time to do something with your photos!

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