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How to Take Black And White Photos: A Complete Guide

Last updated: March 13, 2024 - 18 min read
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The history of black and white photography goes back to the invention of photography in 1826. Color photography was invented only 100 years after.
Every photograph that you can think of, has the potential to be black and white. It only depends on your imagination and a few key skills.
This post will show you how to make the most of black and white photography.

Black and White Photography: General

Black and White vs Color Photography

Tones and contrast are stronger in black and white. Black and white can bring out emotions stronger than colors. This is because it removes distractions from a portrait. Color can make you focus on a particular feeling, like warm or cold.
This article can help you to understand better the foundations of black and white photography and how to use it to create stunning images.
 a black and white architecture photography shot of a buildings courtyard

12 Best Black and White Photography Quotes

Many famous photographers and artists work with black and white photography.
Here are 12 of the best black and white photography quotes. These will give you an insight into their world and processes.
a quote on black and white photography by henri matisse

9 Black And White Photographers To Follow For Inspiration

If you’re looking for inspiration, you’re in the right place. We have collected the nine best black and white photographers. Check out their work to help you through your creative block.

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Notre Dame et chers amis parisiens, mon coeur est avec vous. <3 I remember the feeling of bliss and awe when I saw Note Dame for the first time in 1996. I was back then an architecture student in love with Gothic and I was accomplishing a childhood dream. Fast forward 20 years, I was taking this photo and I was just as amazed. I’ve taken many photos of Notre Dame all these years; every time I was in Paris I was attracted like a magnet by this place. Day or night, sun or clouds. Last time I photographed it was just a few months ago under the rain. Last night when I saw the fire I couldn’t hold my tears. I still can’t. I’ve been watching the French television live ever since and I still can’t believe what happened. When the fire took down the spire I was afraid for the worst. I was trying to imagine Paris without Notre Dame Cathedral but I couldn’t. It just wouldn’t be the same. There’s so much history and so many symbols in this building that are not only French but have become universal. I grew up reading about its history and admiring the art and architecture of Paris and they have been and still are a big part of who I am. Happily, the worst didn’t happen. Most of the structure is still intact and even if seeing the damage is heartbreaking, I’m happy Notre Dame is still standing. There will be many years before we will see it again the way it was, some say 40-50 years will be needed until it’s fully rebuilt, and that is a long time, but it’s worth waiting. All this time, from yesterday when it started, a thought stayed with me. I can’t stop thinking about how ephemeral everything is and how easily we can lose it. We only realize it when something tragic happens. We take things and people for granted and we think they will always be there but the reality is that everything around us, our own selves too, are so fragile and impermanent. There is so little time we humans have here, comparing to the eternity of time. We better do with this time the best we can. #notredame #paris

A post shared by Julia Anna Gospodarou (@juliaannagospodarou) on

Try These 10 Amazing Alternative Photography Processes

There is a whole world out there of alternative processes. Alternative means they drift from the usual color and black and white digital or film photography.
Most of these use chemicals and special materials. They need time and energy to power through the trial-and-errors. The digital renditions of these processes just don’t do them justice.
Try these today and start with the information from our article.

Monochrome vs. Black and White Photography: Is There A Difference?

You might think that monochrome and black and white are terms that mean the same thing. While black and white images CAN BE monochromatic, they aren’t the same thing.
A monochrome image means the capture of ‘one-color’. This can be green, red, or blue, for example. A black and white image already contains two colors.
Strip away the contrast and the stark difference and you are left with a tonal range of grey. For more information, you need to go through our article here.
black and white image of old speakers and books

Black and White Photography Gear

Which Lens Do I Need? From Fisheye to Super Telephoto

Some specific street photography cameras have fixed lenses. These include the Ricoh GRII 28 mm view. You can change these lenses.
If your camera has the ability to change its lens, what would your focus be and how much of the scene would you like to see?
Photographers using DSLRs choose anything from wide-angle lenses, such as 11-16 mm, to moderate telephoto lenses, such as 85 mm.
In this article, you can find lots of information about what the possibilities are and how to use them to improve your black and white photography.
four different types of photography lenses on a table with reflections

Recommended Filters to Use with Black and White Photography

Camera lens filters help you make the most of your landscape, architectural, or long exposure photography.
Some have the capacity to stop some of the light so that a long-exposure is possible. Others add detail into otherwise overexposed skies and well-lit areas. Black and white photography is no different, and colored filters can help enhance it.
The standard Polarising, UV and ND/GND filters are common in color photography. Yet they are also very useful in black and white.
These filters help you bring the most out of the clouds and setting the atmosphere. They also allow you to take stunning long-exposure images
Read this article to learn which filters are recommended for black and white photography.
a hand holding a color filter for black and white photography

Black and White Film Photography

Guide to Choosing the Best Black and White Film

The first black and white analog film was available in 1889. This means almost 130 years of research and development going into the film that you can buy today.
They shoot in as many different scenarios as you can think of, at many different ISO speeds. There are also specialist items, such as infra-red.
The downside is that you might want to digitalize the images. You will need a scanner for this, at an extra cost.
Many enthusiasts and professionals still use film in their photography. The film has qualities like grains and tones still unmatched by the world of digital photography.
A photograph of a tree leaning over a path for black and white photography

Expert Tips for Shooting on Black and White Film

The film of a camera is the flour in a cake. Do you want it fluffy or dense? With gluten or gluten-free? When it comes to photography, every film has a different purpose. Contrast, tones, detail, and the amount of available light can all affect the kind of film you use.
In this article, we look at photographs in black and white, and how it differs from digital pictures. Also, what you should be focusing on to get the best out of your images.

A man sitting at a table shot on black and white photographic film

How To Develop Black and White Film Photography at Home

If you want to go the extra mile and create black and white images by hand, then this article is for you. Developing film at home doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated.
You don’t always need a darkroom to make your own black and white images.
A darkroom might give you full control, but there are ways to work around not having one. Using a scanner to digitalize your work will keep all the film qualities, like grain, intact and contrast.
Read our guide to learn to develop black and white film photography at home.
Materials for developing film for black and white photography

How To Shoot Black and White Photography

Best Camera Settings for Black and White Photography

You can use your DSLR for black and white photography. Use it for color and then convert the images later, during post-processing.
There are ways to change in-camera settings to allow yourself to photograph straight in black and white.
This allows you to focus on important things, such as light and contrast and not get distracted by color.
Follow these steps. Not only will you know how to change your picture style, but also how to keep the color information.
This allows you to always revert back to the color original. It is particularly important for post-processing, as no image data is lost.
a close up of a person changing camera settings in-camera

8 Advanced Black and White Photography Tips

These advanced tips are to get you past the basic ideas which cover most aspects of photography.
These tips are here to help you gain deeper knowledge. You’ll look at a possible message, experience or emotion you want to portray.
This article also includes where and when to use a micro-contrast. Also how to use and place the blackest areas of the photograph in relation to the mid-tone grey areas.
A monochrome shot of kids playing near a boat on New Brighton Beach, New Zealand

Low Key Monochrome Photography: How to Get Amazing High Contrast Images

Low key images concentrate on the ‘key’ light and are the opposite of high key images. You’ll make the subject and environment darker, using black backgrounds and slithers of light.
All the information you need in capturing these images is here, in our article.

Two glasses and a glass bottle sit in a low key dark environment
Kevin Landwer-Johan

Black and White Landscape Photography

How to Create Stunning Black and White Landscape Photographs

There’s a lot involved in changing from color to black and white landscape photography. The lack of color is a huge factor. The golden hour isn’t such a strong time to photograph, and now sunsets and sunrises become mediocre.
Your mind has to switch to look at highlights and shadows, tonal ranges, textures, and contrast. This is how you get that wow factor and the best out of your images.
Read our tips on creating stunning b&w landscape photographs.
a stunning black and white shot of a lighthouse on a pier

How to Choose Your Perfect Camera for Landscape Photography

Photographing landscapes requires a different set of skills than other areas of photography.
In this field, you are looking to capture as much detail as possible while keeping a high resolution. There are a few important things in this field. Using live view, knowledge of dynamic ranges and knowing how to use your DSLR’s sensor.
A full frame DSLR is a top choice. It provides the best performance when accounting for cost, usability, and control over quality. When they are all combined, this gives you the best route for stunning, dynamic images.
Learn more here about choosing the perfect camera for landscape photography.

A black and white landscape shot of trees in a lake
Photo by Emre Kuzu on Pexels

The Best Lenses for Landscape Photography

The cost of lenses can range from $200 to $2000. Some of you might think that the higher the cost, the better the lens. This is true most of the time. There are also other factors you need to consider.
All types of lenses are made to different requirements. Some focus on light, others on chromatic aberrations and other unwanted effects.
All the little motors and processors add a higher cost to the lenses, along with the equipment used to make them. The design and machines needed to create a lens at f/2 will be more expensive than a lens of f/4.
Sometimes the cheapest lens can be amazing. And the most expensive can be disappointing. The article will show you what the best lenses for landscape photography are. And it’ll give you the tools needed to choose the best one for yourself.
lens with lens filters and adapter ring

Black and White Portrait Photography

Black and White Photography: How to Take Stunning Portraits

When you eliminate colors from a scene, you change the whole point of it. Things that have popping colors but no other interest fade into the background. This way, subjects with emotions become the focus of your photograph.
Black and white portraiture brings the vision of the image back to its basic and most truthful state. It also stops color and chaotic scenes from distracting you and stealing your focus.
Read on to learn how to take stunning black and white portraits.
A black and white portrait of a female model

What Is the Best Lens for Portraits?

What will you be photographing? Large groups of people in a studio setting? Standalone subjects with a bokeh background outdoors? Are you looking for a wide range of lenses or one versatile lens, that can cover many different scenarios?
Head on over to this extensive article. You’ll get an in-depth idea of what you should be looking for when shopping for portraiture lenses. It takes into account all the specifications and information you will need.
A camera lens on a wall in front of the ocean

How to Take Professional Black and White Headshots

Headshots are the act of capturing a portrait but only of the head and shoulders. These are used for professional model portfolios and corporate identity. They show the person behind the curtain in a masterful manner.
To create them isn’t as difficult as you would think. Like everything else, time, patience and a little raw talent go a long way. You’ll need a location, either ad hoc or in a studio, where a controllable light source is a necessity.
Read our article here to get started. You’ll be shooting headshots in no time.

A black and white head shot of a man

How to Shoot Old School Hollywood Glamour Photography

Hollywood needs no description. In its heyday, during the studio system of the 1940s, this area of California had a very specific style. Dramatic, high in contrast, and emotional. These images were powerful.
This type of photography is very heavy with the concept of mise en scène. Make-up, hair, clothing, and styling are very important. These re-create the idea of blemish-free perfection. A black and white conversion is also important.
Mixed with the right poses and expressions, you can come up with strong, contrasted images. The first step is to read our article.

A girl in a Hollywood glamour pose turns toward the camera

How To Create Strong High Key Portraits Inspired by Platon

Antoniou Platon is a renowned British portrait photographer. His specific style is so distinct, you know who the photographer is by looking at one image.
His high-key portraits of celebrities, politicians and famous figures come in two colors. Black and white. These contrasted images are quite simple to try.
You need a white background, a light source, and our article. The latter you can find here.

A contrasted black and white image of a man infront of a white background

Black and White Street Photography

Black & White Street Photography Study

Many street photographers still choose black and white in color. They might be emulating the masters before them. Or trying to reduce chaotic scenes to a more simplified view.
Black and white help the photographer show a specific focus.
Whatever the reason, this article helps to show you the benefits of shooting black and white. And how you can use this style to get better results.
Black and white photo of a girl crossing the street

Color or Black and White: Which Is Better for Street Photography?

Working with black and white images is not the same as working with color. Both have different focuses and need different areas of attention. The black and white photographs can benefit from colors.
Adding yellow into the image using a color mixer can affect the detail in the sky. This brings out characteristics in an otherwise overexposed segment of the image.
Also, tweaking contrasts and highlights can have very dramatic results in a black and white photo. Check out our article to learn what is better for street photography.
An overhead black and white street photography shot of people walking on outdoor steps

How to Choose the Best Camera for Street Photography

Street photography is a very versatile topic. You can take photographs on smartphones, all types of digital and film cameras. They all have their own advantages and disadvantages.
What are you wanting to get out of your street photography is the biggest question. This article helps you answer it by giving you a round-up of the best cameras available currently.
These have the capacity of taking your street photography to the next level.
A female street photographer holding a DSLR camera and taking candid shots of passers by

Other Black and White Photography Genres

8 Reasons to Try Black and White Wedding Photography

Weddings in black and white are a perfect balance for telling a story. With black and white images, you strip away the colors. These can be a distraction from interesting elements in your frame.
You focus more on contrast, texture, and the greyscale. It means that if you plan on black and white images, you need to think about how you capture the images from the get-go.
All the help you need in our article here. You’ll find eight reasons why black and white is a perfect choice for wedding photography.
Black and white wedding photo of a couple holding a little girl

How to Edit Black and White Fine Art Photography

Black and white photography concentrates on different attributes than that of color. Architectural or fine art black is no different. In this article, we suggest that your photographic vision or idea needs to come from a ‘black and white mind’.
This is, in essence, knowledge of what is important in what you want to photograph, and what you need to emphasize. Focusing on the scene, subject, point of view, light conditions to create the best images.
Using shapes and strong light to create stunning architectural black and white photography

5 Tips for Black and White Still Life Photography

Still-life might be a good place to start. Especially for those who would like to start focusing on their black and white photography. This starts at home or in a quiet environment. It can give you time and space to practice before jumping into a more chaotic scenario.
This concise article will take you from composition and lighting, through to post-processing.
An image of a flower in black and white, as part of still life photography

Black and White Travel Photography: How to Make the Most of It

There are many types of images that work well in black and white. Street photography and travel photography are great examples of where monochrome is a great choice.
Watch for contrast. Ensure that your greyscale has a wide range of tones between the black and white extremes. Don’t go over the top, as the image has to sit within a correct exposure.
For all the tips you’ll need on great black and white travel photography, see our article here.
Black and white travel photograph of the White Temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand, the building reflected in the water below

8 Tips for Stunning Black and White Macro Photography

Macro photography is the process of capturing an object at a ratio of 1:1 or closer. To do so you need a few pieces of gear, especially a lens or a filter that lets you capture macro photography. A short minimum focal distance is preferred.
We have collected the best tips here for capturing black and white macro shots. The number one tip is to use the best light. Without the best light conditions, you’ll find your images will suffer.
Read more here for the other tips, bringing your images to perfection.
a close of the center of a flower shot in black and white

Black and White Smartphone Photography

10 Smartphone Apps to Convert Photos to Black and White

Your smartphone is a great tool to capture a beautiful scene. On top of that, the power they have nowadays means they can edit quickly and efficiently.
They also allow you to share the images across several platforms in a heartbeat.
Here, we have 10 of the best smartphone apps to help you edit on the road.
A screenshot of Provoke smartphone app interface

10 Tips For Smartphone Photo Editing

Now that we have looked at DSLRs, let’s turn our attention towards mobile photography.
Shooting with your mobile is fast and easy. Converting and processing your images into black and whites is no more difficult.
This article shows you how to use an app to turn those images into something dramatic.
Black and white portrait of a woman in a large straw hat

Post-Processing Black and White Photography

5 Things To Consider When Editing Black And White Photographs

When it comes down to the editing of your photographs, the hardware can be as important as the software you use.
Your computer monitor will have a color management system. This will show your photographs differently to the color management of the printing.
Also, where you edit the pictures is important. It can create color casts that change how you see our images.
You might think that black and white images will not be affected. But they still use color information in the grey, mid-tone areas of your work.
Whatever you will be doing with your images as a final product, be it a book, an exhibition or viewing on screen, they all need different treatments. Learn more about editing black and white photos here.
black and white photo of an old bed at Queen Mary Hospital in Hanmer, New Zealand.

How To Make an Image Black and White in Photoshop & Lightroom

All cameras, except for the Leica M Monochrom, take images in color. If you want a black and white image, then you need to convert the colors.
There are many methods you can do this, but only a few will give you the best possible quality and tonal range.
Read our article here on how to make an image black and white without losing quality, detail or other important factors.
How To Make an Image Black and White in Photoshop & Lightroom

How to Edit Black And White Images in Lightroom

Lightroom is one of the best tools out there to help you get the best from your photography. It is easy and fast to pick-up and can help with your workflow.
Presets are a great way to get very impressive images. They are also fast and easy to use, created by photographic enthusiasts or Adobe itself.
In this article, you can get an idea of what you should be looking at when it comes to editing your work and how to achieve dramatic results.
a screenshot of editing black and white photography in Lightroom

How to Edit Black and White Photography in Photoshop

Photoshop is a little more complicated and requires more learning time. It’s not as easy as Lightroom.
This article helps you to get the best out of your black and white image. You can work with color layers, filters and blending options.
grayscale converstion showing how to edit black and white photography in photoshop

Mastin Labs Ilford B&W Lightroom Presets Review

The film you choose for your analog camera gives you a very authentic look. The contrast, tones, and grain were all different. You chose one based on the final look you wanted.
Now, in the digital age, presets do the same thing. These are settings that are pre-made by photographers that allow others to use them. The presets are based upon the effects of old films.
Mastin Labs have some very special and powerful presets for you to use on your images. Read our review here on how to use them to get the best out of your work.
A singer onstage edited with Mastin Labs presets

How To Use Split Toning in Lightroom in 5 Simple Steps

There are times where you want to add different colors in the shadows that you do in the highlights. This is exactly what split toning does.
This is a technique that exists from the film photography age. It transferred to the digital one. It means you don’t have to adjust the whole image at the same time, in one go.
There are only five simple steps you need to achieve this look. Get started with our article here.
A screenshot image of a leaf in Lightroom for spilt toning

How to Colorize Black and White Photos (The Easy Way!)

You’ve seen this technique in many places. There is even a series on Netflix called ‘World War II in color’. We are fascinated with discovering the ‘truth’. Although we associate our past with black and white, it wasn’t exactly how it was.
Photoshop Classic CC is a great place to change your black and white images into color ones. They add a new spin on pieces from the old times. And it works for architecture, street photography as well as portraiture.
You’ll find all the tips and a step by step process in our article here.
Photoshop is a great place to colorize your black and white images


Black and white photography allows you to look at scenes in a different way. It challenges what you know about composition and editing. Taking black and white pictures is a fantastic way to keep improving your photography.
Start with reading the articles in this guide and then go out there to shoot b&w images!