5 tips for taking perfect black and white photos

To take black and white images you need to take into account some factors: contrast, landscape and the lines of buildings

A black and white image always has its charm. Contrary to what you might think, taking a picture in this way is not always easy. Some people simply apply filters to give the desired effect, but the effect is not always the desired one.

To enhance our black and white photos, as mentioned, using a filter set by default may not be enough. That's why it's necessary to put into practice some tips to be carried out within a photo editing software. Like Photoshop, for example. The operations are not difficult, you just need a little practice. Some of the tips we'll see, moreover, can also be applied to the editing system present by default on almost all major smartphones. Or, in any case, they can be done by simply downloading an application.

Seeing in black and white

The first thing to do before shooting is to look carefully at the subjects or the landscape put in relief. We start to guess how the black and white photo will come out if we shoot in those particular conditions. We pay attention to the background and try to understand if the subjects to be put in the foreground will be enhanced or not with the loss of colors. This is surely the most difficult advice to put into practice, since it requires experience. But if you just start taking a few pictures you'll get the hang of it in no time.

Fundamental aspects

Any black and white photo is based on contrast. So this is the aspect that needs to be given the most consideration. To identify a subject that lends itself to black-and-white photos you only have to look at its lines, its shape and its shadows. The more pronounced these aspects are, the greater the chances that the black and white photo will come out well. Shadow is also as important as light. When we notice a very bright image that has a lot of detail, such as leaves, stones or people in the foreground, then it might be worth using black and white. With colors, the bright light might enhance some details less. Black and white, on the other hand, will help to bring out the sharpness of each individual aspect.

When not to shoot in black and white

There are certain subjects and conditions that don't particularly lend themselves to black and white photos. If the light conditions are not the best we avoid using black and white in photos that also show part of the sky. If the sky is very gray, the result in the photo will be a white patch that gives a minimalist effect to the shot. We also avoid black and white on images that are based on bright colors. Without color we take away the vitality of the scene. Finally, we always avoid black and white on scenes with contrasting colors. For example, two purple flowers on a green lawn in black and white don't have much contrast whereas in color they look great.

Lines and angles

Structures such as buildings, skyscrapers and large offices can be the best subjects for a black and white photo. But the same goes for trees and rocks as well. In general, straight lines, very square angles and light effects are ideal for such a shot. In order to enhance the shapes it is better to use lighting with a high contrast. If, on the other hand, we use artificial light, let's place it to the side of the subject. This will create sharp shadows that give a sense of perfect stillness to the scene. One of the most popular and widely used ways to get simple but very impactful black and white images is to use long exposures. This technique will make water and clouds smooth and smoky, focusing all the attention on the stationary objects. To take photos like this we must use a tripod and expose for more than five seconds.

Exploiting the light

Contrast as we have seen is everything but sometimes, especially with a white or very light background, we can take black and white photos using very intense brightness. In this way we will generate an extremely sharp and light shot. These shots are recommended for still lifes or landscapes with snow.