Tips for Black and White Photography

 
Photograph/Sarang Naik

Photograph/Sarang Naik

Sarang Naik shares a few tips to keep in mind while making black and white images.

This article was originally published in September 2014.

Black and white photography has a magic of its own. But it is quite tough to portray this magic through your photos. Here are a few shooting and editing tips that may help you to make great black and white images of your own.

Before Shooting:

1. The Superpower of Seeing in Black and White
Okay, it’s not really a superpower but it needs a bit of practice to get used to. Try to pre-visualise how different colours look in black and white. Stop thinking in colours and start thinking in tones and shapes.

Keep experimenting with various compositions and techniques and you will slowly become better at predicting how the image will look after conversion.

2. The Light
The quality of light is sacrosanct in photography and more so in black and white images. Observe closely the way light behaves and how it looks translated in black and white.

The best time to shoot is in diffused light, which fades subtly from bright to dark, as it allows you to capture a wider range of grey tones in the image. However, black and white images are more forgiving of harsh light than colour images and you can use that to your advantage.

Photograph/Sarang Naik

Photograph/Sarang Naik

3. Shapes and Textures
When the colour is taken away, the shapes, lines and textures hold the image together. Pay attention to the composition and try to capture the textures in the right light. Low, angled or diffused light works best. Sometimes, a Circular Polariser can also help bring out the textures in the subject.

4. The RAW Deal
If you are shooting JPEG files in black and white then you are being unfair to yourself. Shooting in RAW has two major benefits. Firstly, RAW files store much more details and allow you more freedom while post processing. Secondly, you can get the best of both worlds with RAW – just shoot with the picture style or picture control set to ‘Monochrome’. This lets you preview the image in black and white but it also keeps all the colour information intact. So when you open the RAW file in Photoshop, it opens as a colour image.

Photograph/Sarang Naik

Photograph/Sarang Naik

Post Processing

1. Tones Almighty
Black and white photography is all about the tonal range and the subtle transitions between them. Use these transitions and enhance them to add depth to your images. Remember to keep them subtle and not overdo the effect.

2. Conversion Tools
There are two black and white conversion tools that work great. Silver Efex Pro 2 by Nik is a paid plugin for Photoshop that has a lot of customisable presets which work wonders with your images. However, if you don’t wish to spend money on this and want something less complicated, then Photoshop’s built-in Black and White adjustment layer works great as well.

Photograph/Sarang Naik

Photograph/Sarang Naik

3. Selective Adjustments
No matter which plugin you use, selective adjustments are still necessary to make a good black and white image. Know what you final image should look like. Then selectively adjust the contrasts to achieve that look. For this, you will have to learn how to use tools like layer masks, gradients and dodging and burning.

4. Holy Grain!
In colour photography, you may avoid noise or grain like the plague but in black and white photography, it gets a divine status. Of course, you need to be careful you don’t overdo it.

To begin with, avoid any noise in camera. It is better to add it on a separate layer while post procesing so that you have better control over it. Always add noise at the last, after you are done with the editing. You can also blur it a little and play with the layer opacity to fine tune the effect and make it look more organic.

Photograph/Sarang Naik

Photograph/Sarang Naik

 

Tags: black and white, Black and White photography, Editing, how to shoot in black and white?, photography tips, post processing, Sarang Naik, seeing in black and white, shooting tips, tips, Tips for Black and White Photography