Why you should photograph in black & white

I love making black and white photos! It give the photo’s a new dimension, it makes it stronger; it will grab you with all the emotion in the photo. But, changing a photo to black and white can also remove colour distractions and make textures & contrasts come out. Some photos are just really meant to be in black and white.

If I think of 1 photo that became so much better in black and white, directly one pops up in my head. Below you can see the before and after of this photo. In color it wasn’t really doing a lot to me, but when I made it black&white, and I upped the contrasts, lights and darks a bit… The photo started to speak to me, and that was exactly what I wanted. Because with the photo I want to tell the story that I experienced when taking it.

before and after man

This photo was made of a homeless man in Aix-en-Provence, he came from Marseille. The man wasn’t really speaking, he was very quiet but his face and eyes spoke a lot. I kindly asked him if I could make a photo of him as his face contained so much expression and emotion. The black and white version shows way more emotion in his face and eyes than the colour version does.

“When I take a black&white portrait, it’s not particularly meant to please you. It’s meant to talk to you, it’s meant to scream at you. It is a message.”

Portraits or also other types of photography?

Black and white does not only work really well for portraits, it does for many types of photography. Think of street photography, travel photography but also landscape and wildlife sometimes really work well. My biggest advice: Just follow your gut and try, try a lot of things. Due to trying out new things with different types of photos you learn what works for certain types of photos, you learn how you can bring out certain aspects in a photo better than they would be in the original photo and of course you get to know what your style is!

My 5 tips for making black and white photo’s strong:

1. Photograph in color.
Some camera’s have a black&white option, however, the best is to photograph in color. The camera’s of today have millions of color tones and just a few hundreds of grey tones. This causes that you throw away a lot of information by photographing in black&white and you have less possibilities to edit and thus less control over your end photo.

2. Use contrast.
Contrast is my secret ingredient to strong black and white photos. Most of the great black and white photos that you see do have an extra portion of contrast. It offers an extra factor in black and white photos. It makes the photo interesting. By using opposite (complementary) colours you create variation in your photo and can enhance contrast.

3. Make use of lines, shadows and shapes.
In black&white, lines, shadows and shapes stand out stronger. By paying attention to this, you can use it to make your composition stronger.

Paris black & white

4. Make use of the weather.
Sad and rainy days can make very nice black and white photos.  I also used it in Paris and I loved the results! The soft light gives you the chance to show structures and contrasts better in your photos. Tip: On these days, a little post-processing can give your photo a great boost!

5. Don’t worry too much about a high ISO.
Grain and noise in a black and white photo doesn’t look as bad as in a color photo. Actually, sometimes it even makes the photo better. It takes you back to that good old film look. However, it of course depends on the goal that you have with the photo. Do you like the old film look? Well this is your chance! If you like to have smoother/modern photos than take your ISO more in mind. 🙂
I hope that these tips have helped you to create your best black&white photo!

Lisa Kiburg

Lisa Kiburg

As a passionated photographer, traveller and blogger I love to share my experiences and knowledge with you. I am inspired by nature, animals and culture. With my guides and blogs I’d like to inspire you too. Interested in a photoshoot? Feel free to contact me!

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