Black and white photography can be a difficult craft to master. Without colour, you need to focus on a whole different set of elements in order to bring your photo to life and create the best image possible. We have a list of tips for creating stunning black and white photographs, if you are unsure where it start. Below are some of the most common mistakes people make when they are creating their black and white photographs.
1. Shooting in monochrome.
If you shoot in monochrome, you are allowing your camera to do the conversion for you, which will leave you very little room for editing. Shooting first in colour and then converting your photo to black and white in post-processing allows you much more freedom to edit and create a beautiful black and white image.
2. Not composing your photo well.
Composition is even more crucial in black and white images than it is in colour images. With no more colour in your photograph, the shapes and composition if your photo become much more important. The best black and white photos use visual elements like contrast, texture, line, shape, pattern, and negative space to bring the image to life and create a truly stunning image. Using these elements properly and creating a strong composition will arouse your viewers’ interest and provoke emotion similar to they way colour would have.
For example, while a clear sky looks great in a colour photo, as the beautiful blue creates a striking background, a clear sky makes for a flat black and white image. When shooting for black and white, you would want a sky full of clouds that will add extra layers of contrast and texture to your image.
3. Not having the right amount of contrast.
Black and white images are all about light, shadows, and the contrast between them. However, in order to achieve the right effect, you need to have the right amount of contrast. If you have too much contrast, you will begin to lost detail in your photo. But if there is not enough contrast in your photo, your photo will appear flat.
Be sure to have a true black and a true white in your photo, as well as a wide range of greys so there is enough contrast and a sense of depth in your photo.
4. Not shooting in RAW.
Just like any other style of photography, in black and white photography it is incredible important to shoot in RAW format! RAW images contain much more information than JPEG images, which will allow you much more room to edit. You want to make sure you have as much information as possible, or you will not be able to edit your image effectively, and you will likely be left with a disappointing result!
5. Neglecting the white balance.
A common mistake is thinking that the white balance of a black and white photo is not important. When you convert an image to black and white, the various hues in the image will be allocated to different shades of grey. When you adjust the white balance, these shades and the contrast of the image will, in turn, change as well.
When converting a photo to black and white, you should process it in colour first (including the white balance!) in order to make the hues show up properly and have the best range of grey tones in your image.
6. Not shooting in the best light.
One of the advantages of black and white is that you can often shoot in lighting conditions that would not have been suitable for colour photos. For example, the lighting on the a cloudy day can be perfect for capturing a beautiful black and white seascape, but if you were to shoot the same scene in colour, you would likely need to shoot at sunset or at dawn in order to capture the correct lighting conditions.
This does not mean, however, that you can just shoot in any conditions. Some people think that lighting does not matter in black and white, and shoot in conditions that are totally unsuitable for the subject. Even though you are not as limited with lighting conditions as you would be in colour, it is still important that you pay attention to your lighting and how it affects your subject. Improper lighting will lead to improper exposure, contrast, and other issues that will negatively affect the way your photo turns out.
7. Trying to save photos by making them black and white.
Finally, converting photos to black and white is not a way to rescue a poorly crafted photo. If your photo does not look good in colour, it will not look good in black and white. In black and white, there is absolutely nowhere to hide, so the issues you want to hide by converting your photo will likely be amplified once you make the conversion. Black and white images rely on factors like tonal contrast, textural detail, line, and strong composition in order to work, so if your photo is missing any of these, it likely won’t look great in black and white!
If you are just starting out in black and white photography, and have made one of more of these mistakes, don’t be too hard on yourself! Black and white photography can be tricky, but once you are aware of the areas you may not be executing correctly, you can fix them and your photos will improve dramatically! Simply keep practicing, and your photos will get better and better over time!
For more tips on black and white photography, check out our blog Top Tips for Creating Stunning Black and White Photographs!