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Black and white photography principles Mastering the art of monochrome photography

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As much beauty as colours can portray, the art of black and white photography offers an inexplicable depth and symbolism to images that can mesmerise just about anyone. 

Black and white photography isn’t as easy as it may look. You can’t just add a noir filter to your photography and display it in a gallery. If you want to perfect black and white photography, there are certain principles you must understand first.

So let’s kiss colourful photography goodbye for now, and take a look at some of these principles in our guide to black and white photography.

 

Rewire your artistic mind

Our brains are so accustomed to seeing colours that it’s challenging to think creatively in the monochromatic world. Before you start taking pictures in black and white, it’s important to start thinking in black and white so that you have a good grasp on how to shoot. 

What is seen in reality is not how it will come out as a final product. So try to visualize the scene in black and white before you decide how to shoot it.

 

Understand tones

Tonality plays an important role in black and white photography as it determines how grades of grey tones interact with each other. Evaluate the scene and visualise it in black and white to gain a good understanding of the tones. The subtle changes of grey will capture the depth of the scene.  

 

The art of black and white photography

Pay attention to texture

Texture can drastically enhance a black and white photograph so that the viewer can perceive its visual impact. As you strengthen your pre-shoot visualisation in black and white, you’ll be able to find interesting textures and patterns in nature that can create incredible final results. 

Sometimes using black and white photography can even reveal hidden textures that were lost in colour.

 

Look for contrast

The idea of contrast is simple to understand – it’s the difference between the darkest tones of an image and the lightest. In black and white photography, there is often a strong amount of contrast present. 

Most photographers prefer high contrast black and white photography to create more impactful imagery. But if you’re looking to soften your subject, lower contrast photography is a better choice. 

 

Focus on composition

The beauty of black and white photography is that it gets straight to the point and avoids any distractions caused by colours. This lack of colour captures more of the viewer’s attention, as they focus on the context of the photo to figure out what’s going on. 

Thinking of your photo from a black and white perspective may help you compose your image in a more artistic and appealing manner. 

 

Principles of black and white photographs

Keep it simple

While colours love to pop, black and white photography works better when it’s easier on the eye. Less is definitely more in monochrome photography so try to declutter the photography and remove unnecessary elements. 

 


The principles of black and white photography teach a photographer more than technique and skill. They allow photographers to learn to visualise in terms of tone, texture, composition and contrast even before they shoot with their camera. 

While colours can force an interpretation into the viewer’s minds, the use of monochrome in photography opens them up to the opportunity to perceive the value of an image in their own way. 

Black and white photography continues to be a powerful mode of photography that can drive your message with more emotional impact. You may lose out on colour but some stories are just better told in magnificent shades of grey. 

 

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