Black & White Photography techniques: 6 key tips for improving your monochrome shots

For better black-&-white photos, follow these techniques both for when you’re shooting and editing in Photoshop or Lightroom.


While both camera and monitor manufacturers are consistently developing to bring us better colour images, the modest black-and-white photograph is just as popular as ever before. Often regarded as the purest form of photography, it focuses attention on the fundamentals of a great photo: texture, contrast, shape and - of course - great lighting.

Converting your images to black-and-white is a pretty simple process, but if you’re really keen on getting the best results from your black-and-white photography, these simple-to-follow tips by photographer Tigz Rice will help you get more out of your camera – as well as offering some guidance for post production in either Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.

Read on for the tips.

Intro

Black-&-white photo techniques: Look for contrast

The best black-and-white photos use the entire tonal range, so look to compose your image with some brilliant highlights and rich shadows. Don’t forget those shades of grey in between either - the wider the tonal range, the more captivating your image will be.


Black-&-white photo techniques: Shoot in RAW

If you’ve bought a camera that’s capable of taking good quality photos, it’ll have the ability to shoot RAW images rather than JPEG (or maybe as wells). So go for it!

RAW images are uncompressed image files and therefore offer greater control in post-production, especially in rescuing under or over exposed images. It could mean the difference between getting that perfect shot and missing out.

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Black-&-white photo techniques: Shoot in Colour

Even if you know you’re going to be presenting images in black-and-white, it’s always better to shoot in colour. The main reason for this is that having access to the full colour spectrum gives you more flexibility to fine-tune the image afterwards by specifically targeting a particular colour range.

The other advantage is that some images may actually look better in colour than in greyscale. It is possible to convert to black and white later, while recreating colour images from black-and-white is only for masochists and those who like oddly creepy compositions.


Black-&-white photo techniques: Multiple Exposures

The limited tones of black and white images make them great for long exposures or multiple exposures. Some digital SLR cameras have an in-built multiple exposure setting, giving you the ability to experiment whilst you’re out and about.

Alternatively, take several images and layer them in Photoshop when you get back using Layer Blending Modes to combine the two images. The Photoshop method offers you more control, but the in-built mode can often be a lot more experimental.

Read Tigz’s tutorial on combining photos in Photoshop to create a ‘stop motion’ still.


Black-&-white photo techniques: Look for textures and patterns

Patterns and textures look great in black-and-white, allowing our eyes to focus on the details rather than the colour. Photo walks in your local area are great for capturing a wide variety of textures, which can also be brought into Photoshop and applied via Layer Blending Modes to other images.

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Black-&-white photo techniques: Use the Black And White Mix panel

If your image is looking a little bit flat, give it a whole new look via the Black and White Mix panel in either Photoshop or Lightroom.

Target specific colours in your image and use the sliders to push the corresponding greys into a new tonal range for increased contrast.