Whether you’re a professional photographer using a top-of-the-line Canon, Sony, or Nikon DSLR or a hobbyist using a smartphone, learning how to identify and frame great portraits and scenes is essential. Remember the following when shooting black and white portraits or black and white landscape photography:
Look for images with a lot of contrast.
Consider a portrait against a dark background, or dark hills against a bright sky. Such subject matter has a strong contrast between light and dark, and those contrasts will be visible in a stunning black and white photograph.
Texture can also be used to express contrast.
A tree trunk’s craggy bark provides textural complexity as well as visual patterns of shadow and light. In black and white photography, shadows and reflections can be especially striking, so juxtaposing rough textures and angular shapes with reflective water or windows can create an eye-catching contrast.
In street photography, keep an eye on the light sources.
The key to street photography is to be aware of the various light sources—headlights, street lamps, neon signs, and, of course, the sun—that can bleed into your final image. Use these light sources to capture a range of grayscale shades.
Use a small aperture and a low ISO setting.
Sharp, consistent focus and minimal digital noise should be present in black and white portrait photography. A small aperture and a low ISO will aid in achieving these objectives. You may need to experiment with different lens settings. A wide-angle lens with a shallow depth of field will not respond to the same camera settings as a telephoto lens with a shallow depth of field.
Make use of the rule of thirds.
Use the rule of thirds to guide your viewer’s eye to the important elements of the photo, whether you’re shooting in black and white or color. The rule of thirds creates a grid of three horizontal lines and three vertical lines that can be seen through your camera’s viewfinder or LCD screen. The points where the lines intersect are the points of interest, so position the subject off-center toward either the left or right third of the frame.
Examine the histograms on your camera.
Your digital camera can display a histogram, which is a graphical representation of the total value of your shot, after you take it. A well-composed photograph’s histogram will show that the majority of pixels are away from the shot’s most extreme blacks and whites. If your shot is mostly made up of extremes, you’ll need to adjust your exposure to keep detail in your final black and white image.
How to Use B&W Filters in Digital Photography
Grayscale monochrome filters are available on both DSLRs and the native cameras in smartphones. These tools, as well as other photo effects such as sepia, can be found in the settings menu. It is also possible to shoot the original image in color and then use a black and white filter in post-production. Digital photography processing has advanced to the point where it is nearly impossible to tell whether an image was filtered in post-production or shot on a classic SLR camera using black and white film.
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