Secrets for Powerful Black and White Images: A Black and White Photography Series, Part 2 of 3

Nov 12, 2019

I adore the drama and timelessness of black and white images, but there are certain secrets to creating a strong black and white image. If you missed Part 1 of this Black and White Photography series, you could find that here. Last week, in Part 1, I discussed the important role that colour, shape, and composition have in creating a powerful black and white image. This week I want to share with you three more elements within a photograph that help make a strong black and white image.

1. Look to incorporate textures

Texture, whether smooth or rough or somewhere in between, can add depth and interest to a black and white image. Textures are enhanced within black and white photos. Texture can make a black and white image come alive, infusing a touchable feeling. Try incorporating a variety of textures into your black and white images as a means to create a stronger conversion.

ISO 400, 300mm, f5.6, 1/640SS

2. Light

Light always matters in photography, and there’s no exception to this rule in a black and white image. One of my favourite types of light, when I’m looking for a black and white conversion, is dramatic light. Dramatic light can most often be described as areas of bright light or bright whites in an image alongside regions of low light or black in a picture with some mixture of the two within the frame. I find I often prefer low light situations in black and white.

For example, in the image below, the light or whites in the image are very bright while the darks are very black making it an ideal choice for a black and white conversion.

ISO 200, 155mm, f4.8, 1/500

3. Mood

Black and white images certainly work with various moods; however, I find they work particularly well with scenes where my subject is quiet, calm or contemplative. Absent of colour, the weight of the mood within a black and white image is often felt strongly by a viewer. When creating a black and white image, think about the role mood might have within the photograph and ask yourself if the conversion enhances the mood or if the moment might fit better with the image remaining in colour.

ISO 1250, 35mm, f2.8, 1/200SS

Next time you are thinking about creating a black and white image remember the importance of the above elements. Look for the final part in this Black and White Photography Series next week, which will cover post-processing a black and white image.

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