How to Create Mood in Black and White Photography

One of the best-known applications of black and white in photography is creating mood. Here are some great examples showing exactly how it’s done.

We hear expert photographers often say black and white is very effective in giving our photos more drama and mood. Need more drama in your landscape? Want a dramatic portrait? Want to make your street snap extra punchy and moody? Make it monochrome. But how exactly do we create mood with black and white? This quick video gives us some useful insights and great examples to get in the mood for monochrome.

While colors certainly have their way of adding mood to a photo, black and white is a tried and tested method for this purpose. This is why photographers then and now have been recommending learning the craft of black and white photography for when the shot calls for a dose of drama. With some quick tips below, from Ray Scott of Visual Art Photography Tutorials, we’ll be on our way to using monochrome as a way to express mood in our snaps.

As Scott demonstrated in all of his examples, converting color images into black and white tends to create a stronger and often different feeling compared to the original. The punchy monochrome instantly produces an impression of an old, cold, and stark location. The first example also gives us an idea that it’s something worth trying for abandoned locations. The foggy and misty examples also demonstrate how monochrome effectively conveys a dark, lonely mood. Not only does it look moody and contrasty, but it also invokes a stronger emotion in the viewer, no matter how simple the scene is.

If you’re into street photography and wondering how you can use this dramatic approach, pay close attention to Scott’s photo of the elderly man sitting on a bench. It’s a perfect example of how black and white is great for using light and shadows to heighten the contrast, literally and figuratively isolating the main subject in the shot. Notice how Scott was able to create a totally different mood and story in the black and white version compared to the original in color.

Another creative touch you can add to your black and white photos is to add a bit of toning to emulate the sepia look. This adds a more aged look to your shots, if that’s a look you’d like to experiment with.

If you enjoyed this quick tutorial by Ray Scott, we highly suggest checking out his tips on using black and white to create texture you’ll want to touch and ways to use shadows for creative monochrome snaps.

Screenshot image from the video