Black and White Photography Tips

Pebble | Black and White

© 2007 Wazari Wazir  | Black and White Photography

Please don’t be surprise, you are still at my blog, wazari wazir blog, I know it may come to most of you as a surprise when you see this kind of a picture, a pebbles, usually I don’t post this kind of a picture, to those of you who are familiar with my style, knows that I like to shoot portrait and this still life shot is not something that you would expect in my blog, the reason is, I want to share with you some of the secret recipe of great black and white photographs. I took the  picture above at Batu 17, Dusun Tua, Hulu Langat Selangor.

We must understand that black and white will not work for all kind of a picture, I mean, there is only certain kind of a picture that will look great in black and white, yes, you can turn all your colors pictures into black and white but only few of them will truly look remarkable. So, what make a picture look great in black and white?

  • CONTRAST :  Look for something that have great contrast, something that can easily be differentiate from one and another, a different color will look better, this pebbles may look the same in colors but the truth is, they have a different tone, that’s why when I turn it into black and white, we can see the difference. There is a different tones from each of the pebbles. Some are lighter than the others. For an example, if you try to photograph someone with dark hair, don’t put your subject against a dark background, put them against lighter background, so you can see the hair clearly separated from the background, if you put the person with black hair against a dark background, when you edit the picture and try to darken the picture a bit, the person hair will blend with the background and the picture will look odd, you might think that the person is “bald” because you can’t see their hair because it was blend with the background. To adjust this situation, give thet person a hat or something brighter to cover their head or simply find a brighter background.
  • SHAPES & PATTERNS : Sometimes your subject lack contrast or colors, so look for something that have shapes and patterns, just like the pebbles above, they have different shape and create  a natural pattern, I did not arrange those stones or pebbles, it is like that when I found it. I just pick the best pattern that I can find and just take a picture of it. Modern building or historical building usually have great shape and pattern and this kind of subject usually will look great in black and white, a plain solid building will look quite boring in black and white but a building with lots of shape and patterns will work wonders,  something like Big Ben in London, Eiffel Tower in Paris or Aya Sofya in Istanbul will look great in black and white. That particular architecture have great details of shapes and patterns that really will stand out in black and white.
  • TEXTURE : Just like shapes and patterns, texture also play an important role or another key ingredients that will help certain subject look great in black and white. Have you ever wonder why photographers like to do black and white of an old person with thousand  wrinkles on their face? That’s because those wrinkles or textures on their face will look great in black and white, black and white will enhance those wrinkles, there is nothing wrong to do a black and white portrait of a young lady  with silky smooth face but the impact is not as strong as a person who have a thousand wrinkles on their face. The trick to do a black and white portrait of a young lady with a silky smooth face is in their clothes. Make sure the person wearing a clothing that have lots of texture or patterns, a light colored but worn out blue jeans with a Checkered Red Shirt will look great, simply because that Checkered Shirt have great patterns and textures that will look great in black and white.
  • LIGHTING : Another very important thing is to pay close attention to the lighting, side lighting always look great to reveal a texture and pattern of any subject, side lighting will create nice shadows that will separate each of the texture or pattern nicely. Just like the pebbles picture above, look how shadows separated each pebbles nicely, and the shadows also create a dark pattern around the pebbles. Early morning and late afternoon light always look great to enhance the texture and patterns. The shadows does help to add a little bit of depth to a subject, without shadows, almost any subject will look flat, in certain situation you don’t want any shadows but in black and white, the shadows does help a lot to bring out the subject.

If   you have all the recipe or key ingredients for black and white image, the editing will be easy, just convert your picture into black and white, there are many ways to do it, just pick the one you are familiar with it and just play with “Level” in Photoshop to make it darker a bit and apply some sharpness into it and you are done. It is easy once you know the key ingredients or the secret recipe of what makes great black and white picture. You can turn any picture into black and white but not all of them will look great, now that you know the secret, help yourself and spent less time in Photoshop.

Find out My  Black and White Photoshop Workflow HERE


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