8 Simple Tips for Dynamic Black and White Photos

Black and white photography is a timeless beauty, and it still has a large place in modern day photography. However, when it comes to capturing stunning black and white photos, there are definitely a few things you should know. Black and white photography is much more than just color photography minus the color. In fact, you must treat it as its own species if you want to excel at it. Here are 8 quick and easy tips for capturing Dynamic black and white photos.

1. Don’t convert all of your photos to black and white

Most of us shoot digital nowadays – and with that, most of us shoot in color. To get our photos into black and white, we must manually change it in post-production. The truth is, not ALL photos look good in black and white. In fact, some photos that look great in color, but just don’t cut it when converted to black and white. The opposite is true as well.

Why is that? It’s simple, color is a massive player in composition. Black and white photos cannot fall back on color to rescue the composition, whereas color photos can. If you have a photo that is good because of its color, let it be. Only convert the photos that would look good in black and white, and don’t force it into something it’s not.

PS: If you shoot in black and white... well then just ignore this ;)

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2. Shoot in RAW

Shooting in RAW allows you to get more dynamic range in your photos. What the hell is dynamic range? More detail in your highlights, and more detail in your shadows. This is essential for capturing dynamic black and white photos. It also gives you a much better experience when it comes to editing, as you have much more control over your photo. Definitely shoot in RAW!

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3. Expose for the highlights

Clipping is when you lose detail in the highlights or shadows because they are over or underexposed. During the editing phase, it is MUCH easier to recover detail in the shadows as compared to the highlights, that is why it is essential to expose for the highlights. Your shadows might be overly dark, but can easily be raised in editing. Plus, sometimes overly dark shadows add a very emotional and moody element to your black and white photos, creating a more powerful image.

4. Pay close attention to contrast

Contrast becomes king when color is absent, and it can definitely make or break your image. When you’re out shooting, look for stark changes in lights and darks to capture deep contrast. Contrast becomes a large part of composition it comes to black and white photography as well, so it is important to understand how it affects the overall balance of your image.

5. Shoot before sunset

Afternoon light is the most gorgeous light of the day, and it can present you with some incredibly stunning black and white photos. Shooting just before sunset will give you incredible contrast in your shots, and is definitely the best time to shoot. Some of my best black and white photos were shot just before sunset!

6. Dodge and Burn

Dodging and burning is a classic form of photo manipulation that stems from the old days of manual film development. It involves locally adjusting the highlights and the shadows in your photos to increase contrast, which as previously stated, is essential for stunning black and white photos. You can easily do this in Lightroom or Photoshop with local adjustment tools.

7. Clarity

Clarity is an editing feature that increases the mid-tone contrast, much different than the normal contrast slider found in most editing software. By increasing contrast in the mid-tones, clarity greatly enhances texture, detail, and sharpness in your images. This is an awesome feature that can really make your black and white photos pop. However, don’t go too-overboard with clarity, as an overly detailed/sharp image can be tough on the eyes!

8. Adjust individual colors in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

You can adjust the luminance of individual colors using the "Black and White Mix" sliders under the color adjustment panel in Adobe Lightroom. This directly affects the exposure of each individual color. If you want to brighten/darken skin tones or just certain parts of your image, this a great way to do it. It is also a fantastic way to increase contrast in your image. Play around with these sliders, you'll be surprised at how much it can affect your black and white photos!

So, what do you guys think? Do you like to shoot in black and white? Why or why not?