Black & White Photography

Quiet Moment

From the very moment I fell head over heels in love with the work of photographer, Ansel Adams, I knew that black & white photography would be a passion of mine. There is just something about a good black and white photo that jumps out at me and begs to be hanging on my wall!

Since I tend to challenge the I Love Photography group to the very things I want to someday excel at, I thought maybe this would be the perfect time for a black & white photography challenge. What do you think? Are you up to it?

Although it is certainly fun to share our photos we tend to get even more out of it by also sharing ideas, tips, and related resources. I love learning new things!

Share your favorite black and white photos (that you have taken) over in the photography group as we have always done, but add your questions and tips as a reply to this post so that we can keep the information all together in one spot.

Black & White Photography Tips From Our Members

I hope you enjoy these pictures and personal tips from I love Photography members!

Misty Day by Gary Smithphotograph by Gary Smith of Travels In Photography

I enjoy taking black and white images on a cloudy sunrise morning when there is an abundance of fog and mist which I find will enhance the image with proper camera settings. Finding just the right spot where some of the sun rays shine through the fog on surrounding objects will greatly enhance the image. Many complain about poor lighting on a day such as this, but I find a great deal of drama with it.

I always use an ISO setting of 100, camera sitting on a tripod and usually in Manual Mode. I normally use aperture but I need to adjust all of my settings to bring out the beauty in front of my lens. Just look at your surroundings whether it is an old bridge, buildings, a lake or even people. You can create some magic with this type of setting. While doing this it helps a great deal to pay attention to the abundance of shadows and highlights surrounding you since this is going to enhance your image.– Gary Smith, travelsinphotography.com

Black and White Photo by Mark Smith of ArtyFatty Photography
photograph by Mark Smith of ArtyFatty Photography

Just feel the mood. There no hard and fast rule to be honest just trying convey how you feel about the scene you are projecting. David Bailey summed it up best when he explained that the reason B&W works so well is that the mind has to work harder to determine what is going on. Whereas in colour all the work is done…– Mark Smith, ArtyFatty Photography

Black and White Photograph by Tony D. Lockephotograph by Tony D. Locke of Tony Locke Photography

A quick tip as to what makes a good B&W is, well two things actually (well more than two, but I’d be rambling again), first does it have a wide tonal range from bright whites to dark blacks with intricate patterns & shapes, and second, when you do a quick “remove color” to see how it’ll look in B&W, does it just grab you, and make you go Whoa?! If yes, then continue to work on it in B&W. If either one of these come back as no, then turn the color back on and work it some more in color, or move on to another image you’d like to try in B&W. As there are many times when I’m just in a B&W mood and will search my library for that next image to grab me, screaming to be in B&W.– Tony D. Locke, Tony Locke Photography

Now that we have all been inspired by these stunningly beautiful pictures, let’s start playing and see what we can do. Remember, we are all still learning. That is what these challenges are all about.

Make sure to reply to this post with your questions, ideas, inspiration and tips for black and white photography! Our interaction with each other will make such a difference in our learning curve!

J. Cricket Walker

P.S I added this video that may help you learn to convert images to black and white. Keep in mind this is just ONE way of doing it. Everyone has their own preferences.

37 Comments

  1. Toni RobinsonToni Robinson09-25-2012

    Ok, question from the BIG rookie here… what settings would be best for me to take a black and white photo? Im thinking of a landscape photo, or perhaps even a portrait type? Using a Canon Rebel T3.

    • CricketCricket09-25-2012

      Since I take all of my images in full color and convert them later (in a photo editor) to black and white, I use the same settings as I would use for the scene if it wasn’t going to be a black and white shot. Does that make sense?

      • Toni RobinsonToni Robinson09-25-2012

        Yes, that makes sense. Thanks!

  2. Joyce CampJoyce Camp09-25-2012

    What do most of you do..
    Shoot in black and white?
    Shoot in color the edit to black and white? Tony I did notice you mentioned editing from color to black/white.

    • CricketCricket09-25-2012

      I always shoot in color.

    • JeffJeff09-29-2012

      I shot in color but I watch my curves on my camera,that way I can play with the tones once I get them in the computer. I also (if I can) shot one normal and then one -1and then one +1. that way have I three to play with if I can’t get the tones I want from one. Once in the computer and in Aperture I pull up the first image I like and open Silver efex pro 2 and go to work. I might work on an image for a while save and then come back later ,sometimes in your minds eye it just isn’t 20-20 no matter how much you squint.So you move on

  3. CricketCricket09-25-2012

    For beginners who just want to play around with ideas, I have played around with this tool in the past for experimenting with black and white. It is free and can be added to many editors or it also has a stand alone editor. http://www.optikvervelabs.com/

  4. TonyTony09-25-2012

    Joyce, always shoot in color, that way you’ll always have the color image of a scene too. If you shoot in B&W, then that’s all you’ll have (unless you’re shooting RAW, which is another subject). Plus, your camera’s not the best place to produce a nice looking B&W. Then within Photoshop, Elements or whatever flavor of photo editing software you use, make a copy of the image and work on it as a B&W. You’ll surprise yourself sometimes on what you can do. Not all images will work as a B&W though, so at least you’ll still have the original color one. It just takes experimenting and practice looking at other photographers images to see what works and what you like. There’s numerous ways to go about it. Here’s a link to an article I wrote that’ll give you some new ideas on how to convert your images: http://tonysphotoshoptips.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/converting-to-black-white-and-adding-selective-color/

  5. Trudi CrookshanksTrudi Crookshanks09-25-2012

    I shoot in color, then edit it in B&W! I love Ansel Adams and I live near a cemetery, where he took a picture of the cemetery with an oil derrick behind it. I put most of my pictures in color, but there are times, I feel like I want the picture in B&W!

  6. Joyce CampJoyce Camp09-25-2012

    Tony…thank you I usually shoot in blk/wh because I forget I can select bl/wh feature. I have noticed that some photos don’t look good in bl/wh when I play around with them.
    Again thank you!

    • Joyce CampJoyce Camp09-25-2012

      oops **I usually shoot in color 🙂

    • MarkMark09-26-2012

      Hi Joyce
      Always shoot in RAW and in colour. Go to software like Lightroom where you can play around with the image until you have the result you want.

  7. GaryGary09-26-2012

    I always shoot in RAW mode which gives me the full advantage of working with an image and this leaves me the information needed. Think of it as using a film camera, throwing away your negative, then what do you have left! Nothing!

    Depending on my mood and the mood of the scene, I sometimes will use the black and white mode. Believe it or not, it can give you a much better image to begin with. I have several saved settings in my camera for black and white set so I can produce a more dramatic look!

    Great Article Cricket!!!! You Rock and I can feel it on this side of the World!!

    • CricketCricket09-26-2012

      I sure wish we had a like/love button for the comments!

  8. LarryLarry09-26-2012

    I don’t do B&W a lot but occasionally something catches my eye that this would be a good shot in B&W. Once in a while I’ll do a B&W for a bride, but it usually still has a bit of color, like a rose or bouquet. I always shoot in color (RAW) and then play with it in Paint Shop, or even Picasa (try the Filtered B&W instead of just B&W to get different shading depending the Red/Green/Blue filtering). Cricket has inspired me to shoot more, so I guess this is the next step. 🙂

  9. Carl TomanyCarl Tomany09-26-2012

    Thank you for all the tips. I’m going to try a few.

  10. Carol TomanyCarol Tomany09-26-2012

    It would help if I could spell my name correctly – doesn’t bode well for pictures

  11. Joyce CampJoyce Camp09-26-2012

    I have no idea if I can shoot in RAW…have no idea what that is! I have a Nikon P510.

    • Vickey RobinsonVickey Robinson09-26-2012

      I believe you can only shoot in the raw if your camera is a DSLR 🙂

    • Deanna Irvin-WheelerDeanna Irvin-Wheeler09-26-2012

      raw you have to process I shoot in raw plus jpeg together and always in the finest jpeg you can always remove pixels but if you want to enlarge a picture and the pixels aren’t there its impossiable to add them hope this makes sence joyce

  12. Cori SmelkerCori Smelker09-26-2012

    I am with Joyce. I have heard about RAW but don’t know what it is. Off to do some research now!

  13. Mimi CollinsMimi Collins09-26-2012

    Joyce, thanks for asking about shooting first in color or b&w. Cricket, the video was very helpful in answering that question, and all of you who replied to Joyce filled in some blanks. I had thought it was best to shoot and convert, but wasn’t sure if that met the challenge, so I’m good to go!

    The sample b&w images are stunning – thanks to the shooters, and thanks for the backstories!

  14. Becky Patlan-GarciaBecky Patlan-Garcia09-26-2012

    I usually shoot in color but, as Larry said, sometimes something catches my eye that would be good in b/w. I take the shots in color then I change to take them in b/w also. That way I can compare the finished product. I’m still very amateurish and haven’t broken out my photoshop software yet (it scares me lol) so I have been using a simple program I downloaded for free. It is Irfanview. There are many things you can do with it as an amateur and other things that I’m guessing a pro can use it for. Guess it is about time to break out the photoshop and get to editing like the big boys lol (wish me luck).

  15. TonyTony09-26-2012

    For those of you that aren’t, or don’t know what RAW is — A basic description is: It’s a pure pixel-for-pixel image of what you shot, allowing you full control of your image. It’s like the negative with film shooting. Not cameras will shoot RAW, you’ll have to dig out that owners manual. Most point-in-shoots do not. When shooting jpeg, your camera (destructively) compresses the photo to make it smaller so you can fit more images on your memory card. Generally, that’s not a good thing. The way it compresses the image, is by throwing way pixels. RAW files will be larger and more pristine, but memory cards are cheap, so buy a couple more. So, if you’d like to take your work to the next level, and your camera will do it, shoot in RAW mode. The down-side of shooting RAW, is you will need some new software to open an edit those files. I’d recommend Lightroom. It’s a great tool for organizing and editing your photos. You’ll be amazed at what you can do with these RAW images. But that’s another post.

    • CricketCricket09-26-2012

      That sounds like an excellent guest author post for you!

    • LarryLarry09-26-2012

      For beginners Picasa does a great job handling RAW (or NEF in Nikon-land) photos. Tweak it to your heart’s content then right-click Save and it creates a .JPG that you can share/email/upload/print and stores the original RAW/NEF in a hidden folder. You can always get back the original if you want it. On many ‘snap shot’ photos (family gatherings, not art work), once I’m happy with my edits I delete the .picasaoriginals folder to save space. Oh horrors, I deleted the original. Keep in mind that’s what your camera does every time you shoot in .JPG mode. 🙂

      • LarryLarry09-26-2012

        btw, Picasa is free thanks to the Google boys. You can get it here http://www.picasa.com

        • CricketCricket09-27-2012

          You can do a surprising amount of things with Picasa these days too!

          • Joyce CampJoyce Camp09-27-2012

            Love Picasa…only thing I use right now!
            I downloaded this and have no idea where it is…I can’t find it!
            http://www.optikvervelabs.com/default.asp
            HELP!

          • CricketCricket09-27-2012

            Did you download the plugin or the stand alone one?

          • Joyce CampJoyce Camp09-27-2012

            I finally got it after about 1/2 hour! Don’t care for it though but will go back to it now and then and play!
            I really like this, there’s not a download for it you work from online..but so many options and effects!
            http://ipiccy.com/

  16. Ron StraitRon Strait09-26-2012

    Great B&W info & photos! I seem to have photographers block right now as so much to do before winter but I hope to start picking up the camera again soon. I love the new forum!

    • CricketCricket09-26-2012

      I have been a bit stuck lately too!

  17. Joyce CampJoyce Camp09-27-2012

    I cannot shoot in the RAW with my camera but did find out a few things I didn’t know about it!

    http://news.consumerreports.org/electronics/2012/04/nikon-coolpix-p510-takes-superzoom-to-the-extreme-at-42x.html

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