Six ways to shoot… Black-and-white images
Learn to look for lines and shapes, emphasise texture, and four more effective routes to beautiful mono
Raw is best 1
When you shoot black-and-white, it is better to shoot raw simply because the colour raw file will capture more information, so you will have a great tonal range to play with when it comes to post-processing. If you shoot raw and switch your picture setting to Monochrome, you will have a handy black-and-white preview showing in your LCD after each shot.
2 Think lines, shapes and shadows
The key to great black-and-white is to look at your subject only in terms of shape and contrast. If you shut one eye and squint with the other, you can assess light and shade similar to how a camera’s sensor sees it. This helps you compose your black-and-white image using the basics of light and shade, removing the influence of colour in the scene. 3 Consider processing before you take the shot If, as we’ve recommended, you shoot your mono images as raws, you have to go through a post-capture processing workflow. It’s worth considering what this processing might entail, because it could influence how you take the shot. For example, are you looking for low-key (dark) or high-key (light) results? Set the camera exposure accordingly. 4 Texture adds an extra dimension With the absence of colour, natural texture takes on a significantly more important role. Texture adds interest within the frame and will help your image pop when you’ve processed it. You can contrast texture too, or use it to create interesting patterns within the photograph that are pleasing to the eye.
5 Use filters
A polarising filter can add contrast to a scene. Since we’ve already established that strong contrast is often essential for mono success, a polarising filter is naturally a useful accessory. A neutral-density filter that lengthens exposure time can also be used to help create contrast between soft (moving) water and solid structures.
Make it punchy 6
If you want to shoot black-and-white images that really catch the eye, make them punchy. While you need a good range of tones within the image, you also need strong shadows and highlights to emphasise all the important elements we’ve talked about here.