Tips For Black and White Portraits
Want to make beautiful portraits in black and white? Sarang Naik gives you some pointers.
Black and white portraits will never become obsolete. There’s a timeless magic to them that is tough to create in colour photographs. But it does take a lot of practice and a good eye for tones to make a great black and white portrait. Here are a few things worth considering before you start shooting:
1. Quality of Light
Always pay attention to the quality of light and the way it falls on a person’s face. Soft window light is perfect for portraits but you can also use harsh midday light to make dramatic and contrasty images. If you use artificial lighting you can be much more creative with it.
2. Choice of Lens
The lens you shoot with decides the look and feel of the photograph. Environmental portraits are usually made with wide angle or ultra wide angle lenses. Longer lenses such as a 50mm or a 100mm with wide apertures help you to blur the background and get pleasing bokeh.
3. Skin Texture
By altering the contrast, you can give the skin a soft glow that looks amazing in black and white. The skin’s inherent texture can also be brought out such as wrinkles in old people or those who have freckles. This adds character to the portraits.
4. High Key or Low Key
High key portraits give a dreamy look to the image while low key ones create a sense of mystery. Expose the image such that you don’t lose details in highlights or shadows. It is better to create the high key or low key effect while post processing so that you get more control over the process.
5. Choice of ISO
Keep the ISO at the lowest setting if you are aiming to achieve portraits with a soft and silky feel. In other cases, don’t be afraid to pump up the ISO as the noise can add a wonderful textured look to the image.
6. Dodge and Burn
The dodge and burn technique is an absolute must for making good black and white portraits. Use it to make subtle contrast changes in the image such as bringing out the whites in the eyes. Using the brush tool, dodge (lighten) the bright areas and burn (darken) the shadow areas to increase the contrast. This makes the eyes stand out in the image.
7. Faceless Portraits
Portraits don’t need to be only with faces. You can include a part of the body or just the person’s shadow. Try to show the person’s presence in creative ways.
8. Warm It Up
After you are done processing the image, add a warming filter or a sepia filter to it. This adds a warm feel to the image which goes very well with a black and white portrait. Don’t overuse the filter; an opacity of 5% to 15 % works best.
This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of Better Photography.Tags: Shooting Technique, portraits, black and white, tips, portrait, portrait tips, Black and White photography, photo tips, techniques, Sarang Naik, black and white portraits, Tips For Black and White Portraits