An Intro to Black and White Digital Photography

Black and white photographs are often deemed as elegant or classy. Although colored photographs can be breathtaking, colors can also be such a strong element that it can overpower the other elements such as patterns or texture. There is something stark and intense about black and white pictures that captures the viewer’s attention and doesn’t let it go.

Composition – when an image is stripped of color, other elements become much more obvious. The various textures become more noticeable, patterns and shapes become more pronounced, and contrast and toning need a deft touch. One needs a good command of the elements of composition to bring out the best in black and white images.

Shoot in color – the great thing about shooting in color is that you can always convert it to black and white in post processing. Then, if you change your mind and want it colored after all, you still have the original file to work with.

Use RAW – if your camera is capable of taking photographs in RAW format, it would be advisable to use that function. The image appears as black and white on the LCD screen but the camera is storing all the colors as well. RAW stores all of the image data unlike JPEG which compresses the file and disposes of some data. These extra data might be the saving factor in retrieving detail to over or underexposed areas.

When converting to black and white in post processing, try not to use grayscale or desaturation. Instead, play with the channels which will give you more control about editing the shades between black and white.

Shoot during overcast days –you might not usually take colored pictures on days like these because the colors look washed out and dull. However, overcast or gloomy days are a great time to shoot black and white pictures. As a matter of fact, you can also take fabulous black and white shots during bright sunlight because the harsh lighting can cause hard shadows which can appear dramatic in the monochrome image.

Low ISO – unless it is for intended effect, it is always best to choose low ISO when taking a photograph, whether colored or black and white. This is particularly necessary with black and white shots because image noise or grain is more visible.

Choose your subject – some subjects just look better in black and white rather than color. For example, a lot of portrait photography is shot in black and white because blemishes and imperfections are less apparent. Wedding photography is another area that makes full use of this style. Black and white wedding photos have this aura of elegance, solemnity and romance that seems difficult to capture in color. Cityscapes and landscapes also make great subjects because lines and patterns are emphasized.

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