Think you could use some tips to take your black and white photography to the next level? We’ve already shared loads of tips and tricks for photographers of all levels, but since we’re always looking for insights from experts then and now, here’s another set from another real pro. In a recent video by COOPH, London-based street photographer Alan Schaller, the co-founder of Street Photography International who also shoots exclusively in black and white, gives seven helpful tips and insights on getting better at the craft.
Shoot black and white on purpose
This may be a topic for debate, as many photographers prefer and even recommend shooting both in color and black and white. They believe shooting a scene in color will allow you to decide during post if a shot looks better in color or black and white. But Schaller believes that this may confuse you, as shooting in color requires a different skill set. He recommends dedicating every day for one month to shooting only in black and white: you’ll eventually find some noticeable improvements in your photography.
Focus on what makes black and white interesting
Schaller makes a great point about why he doesn’t recommend shooting in color. Since colors don’t affect a black and white image as much as texture, tonality, contrast, and light, it’s more important to focus your attention on these elements instead of getting distracted by all the bright hues. For a start, look for variations of light in a scene and pay attention to the contrast they create in your images.
Adapt to your lighting situation
If you want to shoot high contrast images but don’t have the lighting for it, don’t force it: look for something else instead. The key is to get the look and feel of the environment, like looking for reflections from the puddles on a rainy day, or interesting shadows or backlighting to add to your composition. Schaller reminds us to take what we have and roll with it; there’s no such thing as bad lighting!
Make good use of your environment
Pay attention to the various elements around you — like geometry, context, and reflections — to get creative with your street snaps. Don’t just focus on the human element. The key is to combine a good subject with good environment and good light: you’ll do great.
Capture a good range of contrast
Schaller tells us to recall how the Zone System by Ansel Adams represents every tone in an image for a well contrasted image. This also works great for street photography, especially once you’ve learned how to effectively do the last two tips above.
Feeling bored with your street snaps? A change in perspective will effectively take care of that. Schaller suggests switching to interesting angles in order to present the world in a different way through your photos.
Last but not least, Schaller reminds us that we can only work with what we’ve captured in terms of editing. We can’t always force the file like crazy, as some images just won’t look great if we do. If you haven’t captured it in your frame, there’s a great chance it won’t happen in your edits. He likens editing to “varnishing a table that’s already been well made.”
Screenshot image from the video by COOPH