There’s something incredibly artistic and intriguing about black and white photographs. When taken correctly, these pictures often carry intensity, focus, and an almost otherworldly beauty. Black and white photographs can convey silence and thoughtfulness, which makes them very appealing. However, it’s important to use the right techniques when you take these images.
#1 Focus on Contrast
Dramatic black and white photographs have a stark contrast between the blacks and whites. Many photographers deliberately set black and white areas of the photograph at 100%, which creates a sharp contrast in the picture. That’s what catches the audience’s attention immediately when they look at that picture. It also increases the drama and intensity of the image, creating more impact.
It’s also important to keep both the white space and the black space in the picture completely clean, with only the subtle gradient that showcases the real texture of the subject being photographed. You can achieve all of this through careful editing.
Every photographer must understand how to handle exposure. If you know when to overexpose or underexpose, you’ll be able to highlight features and bright out subtleties. Exposure is a key ingredient in black and white photography because you deal with lights and shadows and not colours. If you set your camera to overexpose, the bright areas in frame will appear cleaner and more vivid.
For example, an overexposed picture of the sea in bright sunlight will remove most of the texture of the sea surface but emphasise the play of sunlight on it. If you underexpose the same scene, the texture of the sea will stand out and add dimension but underexposure will take away some of the brightness.
#3 Balance is Important
Balance is an important aspect of any photograph because you want to maintain flow and ensure there’s harmony in the picture. Of course, some professionals deliberately create disharmony in an image to disturb the viewer and illicit strong feelings. However, that only works for specific subjects. In most pictures, you need to maintain a good balance between the dark and light.
Balance doesn’t mean that the dark and light should be present in equal amounts. They should play off each other well to create a dramatic shot. For example, a small dusting of bright stars against a pitch black sky can be stunning if the balance between the stars and sky is just right.
If the blackness overwhelms the stars completely and they appear to be just a few white spots, the picture will be uninspiring. However, if the balance between the two is just right and the cluster of stars is illuminated well enough, their brightness will emphasise the intense darkness of the sky while the darkness will highlight their glow.
#4 Shapes and Textures
Colours add dimension and depth to a picture. Without them, you need to create depth and dimension with textures and shapes. If you don’t do this, the picture will look flat and lifeless, so it won’t appeal to anyone. When you compose the frame of the shot, take some time to understand the scenery and determine what can be used to lead the audience’s eye and become the focus. The intension is to create flow and movement in the photograph so it looks alive instead of being bland.
If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.