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The beauty of black and white photography  Symbolism and techniques of black and white photography

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Even people who don’t care much for photography often find themselves being drawn to black and white photos. That’s the enticing nature of monochrome photography as it portrays symbolism beyond aesthetics. 

Some may think that colour photography has buried the concept of monochrome photography. But there are some things that are just better said in black and white than in vibrant tones of colour. This is the reason why the art is still alive and so popular.

A photographer can’t take a black and white picture of just anything and expect it to speak of deeper meaning. To perfect black and white photography, you have to think and breathe in a world without colour. 

 

Techniques of black and white photography

1. Shoot in RAW+JPEG

If you shoot raw and JPEG files simultaneously and set the camera to its monochrome Picture Style mode you get a good understanding of how the image will look in black and white. By shooting in RAW, you’ll be able to change your mind later if the photo doesn’t look as you imagined it to be in black and white. 

 

2. Capture emotions

Black and white photography is more about telling a story in a way that colour doesn’t distract the viewer from the image’s beauty. It is about highlighting the subject’s emotions and expressions and not just about capturing a scene that lacks colour, to begin with. So choose your subjects wisely, keeping in mind they’ve got a story to tell. 

 

3. Focus on post-production

For a lot of photographers, post-production is where the creative journey begins and this is mostly true for black and white photography as well. One of our favourite editing tools is Silver Effex Pro 2 – a Photoshop or Lightroom plugin that can transform your photograph into a black and white masterpiece. 

 

4. Pay attention to shapes and patterns

A great tip when scouting for a scene to shoot is to look for shapes, patterns and textures in a scene and move around to find the best composition. To capture the subject in a better definition it is advised to take your photos around noon, to create heavier shadows to emphasise the lines and shapes in the composition.

 

5. Use a polariser

Filters can control the amount of light entering your camera, which can be a godsend for black and white photographers. A polariser can be used to reduce reflections and improve contrast. Try experimenting with a polariser and without one to see which one produces the best result. 

 

6. Try long exposure

Long exposure is a black and white photographer’s best friend when it comes to capturing moving objects like clouds or the ocean. The blurring of the movement helps add a textural component to the picture.

 

7. Put on your black and white glasses

If it isn’t obvious yet, colour photography and black and white photography aren’t even remotely similar. To perfect your shot, you need to stop seeing the world in colour and start seeing it from a black and white perspective. For starters, if you want to visualise in black and white, try and pay most of your attention to lines, shadows, and shapes.

 


Black and white photography can be an enthralling hobby or a fulfilling career, but don’t expect the best of results on your first try. It takes time and patience to develop and eye spotting potential subjects for black and white photography. But if you practise our techniques and keep at it, the learning curve will be much shorter.