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Black and white photography is the oldest style of photography. Every photograph that you can think of, has the potential to be black and white.

It depends on your imagination and a few key skills. Every area of photography, from landscape to portraiture, have their own set of requirements when it comes to B&W photography.

This post will take you through each of them and show you how to make the most of black and white photography.

Black and White or Colour

Photographers have very different ideas in mind when they decide whether to shoot black and white, or colour.

Textures and contrast are stronger in black and white. Black and white can bring out emotions more strongly than colour by removing distractions from a portrait. But colour can make you focus on a particular feeling, like warm or cold.

This article can help you choose between black and white, and colour, based on what you want to achieve.

Photo of trees depicting a left to right transition from black and white to colour

Photographic Gear

Recommended Filters to Use with Black and White Photography

Photographic filters are there to 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 coloured filters can help enhance it.

The standard Polarising, UV and ND/GND filters are often attributed to colour photography. Yet they are also very useful with black and white.

Use of filters with examples in black and white photography

Camera Settings for Black and White Photography

The most popular way to use your DSLR for black and white photography is to use it for colour and then convert the images later, during post-processing. There are ways to change in-camera settings to allow yourself to photograph straight to black and white. This allows you to focus on important things, such as light and contrast and not get distracted by colour.

If you follow these steps, not only will you know how to change your picture style, but also how to keep the colour information. This allows you to always revert back to the colour original. It is particularly important for post-processing, as no image data is lost.

Changing camera settings in-camera

Digital Photography vs. Film Photography

There are countless arguments whether to stick to the origins of photography and shoot with film or join the modern era and only use digital. The choice, at the end of the day, is down to you. Each of these has very different workflows, equipment and mindsets to get you to the same final stage: the photograph.

The two differ a lot in cost, the amount of time and space you will need as well. It even comes down to whether you want to see the image as soon as you take it, or have the patience to wait with film.

Digital vs. analogue cameras for use in black and white photography

How to Choose the Right Type of Film

The first black and white analogue 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 speeds. There are also specialist items, such as infra-red.

The downside is that you might want to digitalise the images. You will need a scanner for this, at an extra cost.

Many enthusiasts and professionals still use film in their photography. They show us that film has definitive qualities still unmatched by the world of digital photography.

A photograph of a cyclist crossing a bridge for black and white photography

How to Shoot with 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 amount of available light can all affect the kind of film you use.

In this article, we look at photographing in black and white, and how it differs from digital. 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 Create Black and White Images at Home

If you want to go the extra mile and create black and white images completely 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, with running water, an enlarger and red-light 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 digitalise your work will keep all the film qualities, like grain, intact.

Developing film for black and white photography

Alternative Black and White Processes

If you are looking for something a little more creative in the analogue world, look no further than this article. So if you want to emulate Ansel Adams, tintype photography is what you will be looking for!

Here we have a very in-depth look at 8 different styles you can create using either different processes or chemicals for that unique final image.

A dog photographed using an alternative black and white photographic process

Types of Black and White Photography

Landscape Photography

There are many things that need to be rethought when you change from colour to black and white landscape photography. The lack of colour is a huge factor, the golden hour isn’t such a strong time to photograph, and now sunsets and sunrises become mediocre.

Now your mind has to switch to look at highlights and shadows, tonal ranges, textures and contrast to get that wow factor and the best out of your images.

Black and white landscapes can really benefit from a strong contrast

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. The important things in this field are using live view, knowledge of dynamic ranges and knowing how to use your DSLR’s sensor.

A full frame DSLR is a top choice as it provides the best performance when accounting for cost, usability, and control over quality. So when they are all combined, this gives you the best route for stunning, dynamic images.

The Best Lenses for Landscape Photography

The cost of lenses can range from $200 to $2000 and 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 that need to considered.

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.

And sometimes the cheapest lens can be amazing and the most expensive can be disappointing. The article above will show you what the best lenses for landscape photography are, and give you the tools needed to choose the best one for yourself.

Recommended lenses to use with black and white photography

Portraiture

Ted Grant once said “If you want to shoot fashion, shoot in colour, but if you want to shoot emotion, shoot in black and white”. Black and white portraiture brings the vision of the image back to its basic and most truthful state. It also stops colour and chaotic scenes from distracting you and stealing your focus.

Female self-portrait rotated to the left. Face is obscured by hand.

How to Choose the Right Camera

Portraits are taken on anything from a smartphone to a large format camera with a digital back, but as DSLRs are the most used, we will focus there.

In this article, you can find a comprehensive list of what you should be looking for in a DSLR. Whether for portrait photography or anything else, it takes pricing and level of experience into account.

A guitarist playing music and photographed in black and white

Best Lenses for Portraiture

What will you be photographing? Large groups of people in a studio setting? Standalone subjects with a bokeh background outdoors? Are you looking to use a wide range of lenses or one versatile lens, that can cover many different scenarios?

Head on over to this extensive article for 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.

Choosing the best lens for your subject can have dramatic effects on your photographs

Street Photography

There are many great reasons why many street photographers still choose black and white over colour. These range from emulating the masters before them, to reducing chaotic scenes to a more simplified view. Understanding black and white helps the photographer show a specific focus of the image.

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.

Natural framing is a great way to show the contrast in black and white photography

Josh Dunlop

How to Choose the Right Camera

Street photography is a very versatile topic, where photographs are taken 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 8 best cameras, that have the capacity of taking your street photography to the next level.

Choosing the best black and white street photography camera is not an easy decision

Which Lens Do I Need? From Fisheye to Super Telephoto

Some specific street photography cameras have fixed-lenses, such as the Ricoh GRII 28 mm view, and they cant be changed. If your camera has the ability to change its lens, what would your focus be and how much of the street 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.

A girl and her shadow on the street

Architecture/Fine Art

As we have seen so far, black and white photography concentrates on different attributes than that of colour. 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

Still Life

Still-life might be a good place to start for many who would like to start focusing on their black and white photography. This starts at home or in a quiet environment and can give you time and space to practice before jumping into a more chaotic scenario.

This concise article will help take you from composition and lighting, through to post-processing treatment.

An image of a flower in black and white, as part of still life photography

Mobile Photography

Your phone may take great selfies and snaps of whatever you are eating, but have you thought about using it for your street photography? There are many benefits; It is less intrusive, fast and easy to use and you can edit the photographs then and there, and even share it with the world.

Black and white photographs are easy to create with apps such as Monokrom and Snapseed and can help create some impressive images.

A boy looking out of the window, taken with a smart phone photography app

How to Shoot Black and White

If you photograph only in colour, black and white photography needs a little shifting of your focus and attention. Before, you looked at complementing colours and effective white balance. Now, contrast, highlights and things like texture become more important.

Do you want to shoot in colour and convert the image in post-processing or go to in-camera black and white? This article helps you to answer these questions and shows you the fundamental ideas you need to think about and get you on the right path.

a black and white photography showing a wide tonal range

Advanced Tips 

These advanced tips are to help you look past all the basic ideas which cover most aspects of photography. The camera gear, equipment and accessories are things that help you take better photographs. These tips are there to help you gain deeper knowledge, looking at a possible message, experience or emotion you want to portray.

This article helps where and when to use things such as micro-contrast. Also how to effectively use and place the blackest areas of the photograph in relation to the mid-tone grey areas. Your photographs will benefit immensely.

Advanced compositional tips to take into consideration

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

All cameras, except for the Leica M Monochrom, take images in colour. If you want a black and white image, then you need to convert the colour to a monochrome state.

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.

Post-Processing Black and White Photography

All digital editing software for Mac, PC, smartphone or Android offers a conversion from colour to black and white. Unless you took a colour photograph, converted it into black and white in a non-destructive manner, you can not revert it. The information is no longer there.

There are many ways to convert to black and white, some of which are non-destructive (allows you to go back to colour if you like) but only a few ways where you can convert the image properly. This article tells you what you should or shouldn’t be doing to get the most out of your photographs.

A shot of the great outdoors, transitioning from colour to black and white

How to Edit Images on Mobile

Now that we have looked primarily at DSLRs, let’s turn our attention towards mobile photography.

Shooting with your mobile is fast and easy, and now converting and processing your images into black and whites is no more difficult. This article shows you how to utilize an app to turn those images into something really dramatic.

Showing a symmetrical image of a glass ceiling photographed on a smartphone

How to Manage Images in Post-Production

Working with black and white images is not the same as working with colour – both have different focuses and need different areas of attention. The Black and White photographs can benefit from colours. Adding yellow into the image using a colour mixer can affect the detail in the sky. This brings out characteristics in an otherwise overexposed segment of the image.

Also, tweaking of contrasts and highlights can have very dramatic results in a Black and White photograph.

Two women walking down the street

Things to Consider When Editing Black and White Photographs

When it comes down to the editing of your photographs, the hardware can be just as important as the software you use. Your computer monitor will have a colour management system that will show your photographs differently to the colour management of the printing.

Also, where you edit the pictures is also important, creating colour casts that change how you see our images. You might think that black and white images will not be affected, but they still use colour 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 or an exhibition, they all need different treatments.

A book could be a possible outcome to your work, which needs to be considered when editing your images

How to Use Tonal Contrast with Photography

The tonal range in black and white photography is one of the most important things to focus on. The range is basically the degree of how bright or how dark parts of your image are. The bigger the tonal range, meaning the more dark and light areas there are, the more impressive the image.

Although contrast works well in both colour and black and white, the latter needs it more to stand out and make a lasting impression.

Two photographs of the same beach scene. One showing as photographed, and the other showing the black and white conversion

10 Tips for Using Luminosity Masks in Digital Blending

Luminosity masks are a feature in Photoshop that helps you isolate areas of a high light intensity in the photograph’s pixels. With these selections, you can select areas of the photograph and only work on specific tones, not the whole image. These are great to help boost the focus and look of a specific object in your frame. This article gives you a great rundown, from creating the masks to the finished image.

Creating luminosity masks in Photoshop to help create stunning images

How to Transition From Taking to Making the Photograph

Ansel Adams said, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it”. This guide takes you through many ideas. Looking at the basic elements, what makes a great photograph and how to make it into a final, polished print.

Focusing on the basic ideas and continuing to identify, isolate and control the elements will help your photographic confidence.

A hill scene showing beautiful post-processing

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 and are 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.

Lightroom is a great tool for converting colour images to black and white for your black and white photography

Processing Images in Photoshop

Compared to the ease of processing images in Lightroom, Photoshop is a little more complicated and requires more learning time.

This article helps you to get the best out of your black and white image by working with colour layers, filters and blending options.

drop-down menu for black and white editing in photoshop

A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:

Thank you for reading...

CLICK HERE if you want to capture breathtaking images, without the frustration of a complicated camera.

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Craig Hull

Craig is a photographer currently based in Budapest. His favourite photographic areas are street and documentary photography. Show him a darkroom and he'll be happy there for days. As long as there are music and snacks. Find him at craighullphotography.co.uk and Instagram/craighullphoto

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