9 Ways You Can Create Better Black and White Photography

When done right, black and white photography has the power to create moods, add drama, and exude a timeless quality. These quick tips will help you understand how to work with the medium and harness that power.

“For most of us these days, black and white is an afterthought, a creative filter we have on Instagram, a Lightroom preset we apply because that particular shot has too much color in it. Black and white is not generally something we pre-plan,” lamented London-based photographer Jamie Windsor in one of his videos about black and white photography. He goes on to remind us that black and white is more than just a creative filter or an editing technique. It’s a totally different way to see things, work the scenes, and convey thoughts, feelings, and ideas. To help us get a better understanding of these notions and achieve better results in the process, he put together nine quick tips and techniques he found crucial to black and white photography.

Here’s a rundown of those tips in case you want to make some notes:

  1. Plan to shoot in black and white.
  2. Look for the abstract.
  3. Shoot in RAW or use color filters.
  4. Use long exposures.
  5. Dodge and burn. Or, simply put for digital photographers, use post-processing to apply some creative license to communicate your vision to the viewer.
  6. Understand how light is affected by the switch from color to black and white.
  7. Use HDR. But don’t overdo it.
  8. Use black and white to emphasize mood, especially when shooting portraits.
  9. Subvert expectations. Try shooting in black and white subjects that you typically associate with strong color.

In essence, because you’re taking away the distraction of color, you have to be creative with the qualities, effects, and visual language that are unique to black and white photography. To do that, you first need to deliberately work with the monochrome mindset in mind. Identify why you’re shooting in black and white and make that your intention. Are you after the timeless look? Do you want to strip your scene down to its very essence, which are light and dark? Once you have that figured out, Jamie believes you’ll start to change how and what you photograph. You’ll even want to learn how to subvert expectations and see how colors can be used to bring out often unseen details through black and white.

The other tips touch base on some of the technicalities inherent to black and white photography, which you can use to make compelling images. Highlight your composition. Play with light and shadows. Experiment with long exposures. Bring attention to shapes and textures. Set the mood. Use post-processing to bring out what you want to communicate visually, but don’t overdo it.

Want more photography tips and tricks from Jamie Windsor? Don’t forget to check out his YouTube channel for more photography videos like this!


Cover image from the video by Jamie Windsor