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Essential Guide to Black and White Photography

Essential Guide to Black and White Photography
woman hair black and white photograph
Black and white woman hair held in hand – photograph taken by Gabriel M. at

It is well known that black and white photographs are timeless. Not only that, but a viewer is likely to spend more time looking or engaging to a black and white photograph than a colour one.

The emotions driven by this type of photography is unique and does not die as time goes on.

There are many cases and situations where black and white photography can have a better impact on a viewer than a coloured one.

In this topic, I want to introduce you to the basics of black and white photography, to guide you take better b&w photographs and to give you some extra tips on how to improve this type of photography.

What do we know about black and white photography?

In most of the cases, a viewer is likely not to focus on a specific subject or part of the scene, as in coloured photography. People tend to watch and appreciate the photograph as a whole, whilst in coloured photographs the subject more likely to be engaged by the viewers.

It is associated with a little bit of romance and some deep emotions. It is much easier in black and white photographs to get driven by emotions and appreciate the artwork, therefore this is also associated very well with fine-art photography.

Tips to take better black and white photographs

But moving forward, I want to share with you a few tips on how to take better black and white photographs.

fishing boats black and white photography
Fishing boats black and white photography, photo taken by Gabriel M. at

When you take a black and white photograph, don’t think about the colours, or what you see through eye-finder. All colours will eventually become shades of grey. Instead, focus more on the highlights and shadows. A beautiful black and white photograph stands out when the shadows or the darks are becoming a soft black, and the highlights a soft white.

Even if this works well with photographing nearly anything that can drive us with emotions, taking long exposures and converting into black and white, can highlight those emotions. A simple example is taking photographs of the sea and a pier. Only a long exposure photograph will give you that soft and lovely touch of pleasure, for sure.

Also, like on any other tutorials, I strongly recommend shooting in RAW and not JPEG. Just by the simple ability to post-process your photo, which to mention is essential in b&w photography, should be a reason more than enough to do it.

What about contrast?

When you create black and white photography, think about contrast also. Camera settings should be set to give you a flat profile of colours without much contrast, but here post processing will come into place. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that your blacks have to become a shade of grey when you are taking a photo, but should not be high contrasted either. Not yet, at least.

Essential Guide to Black and White Photography
Photo by Cristiane Teston on Unsplash

Taking black and white photographs, or more or less, or thinking as a black and white photographer, should not be much different from a normal ‘colour’ photographer. Same rules apply like composition, rule of thirds, and so on. But think outside the box and sometime, break those rules.

When you are post-processing, do the basic retouching in colour and then convert it to black and white for a ‘fine tune’ of your photos. Add some radial filters, some additional lights, try to create a photograph out of the ordinary. You are thinking in black and white now.

And finally, remember that not all the photographs look better in black and white. You have to explore this on your own, pick what’s the best for you, how to add emotion to the photograph itself, and how to choose your subjects and scenes wisely.

See this gallery from Unsplash for a greater idea about what other people submit as black and white photographs.


If you ask for my opinion, black and white portfolios are not only timeless but it looks much better than normal portfolios, and is definitely easier to create them and focus on.

But remember, not everyone like myself and you, are driven by the vibe of those black and white photographs.

The most important thing to remember is if you love what you are doing, then don’t ever change! ever!

Because in this world you cannot please everyone! Being creative and thinking different will open you a new area of opportunities.

Stay tuned and shoot in black and white!

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Essential Guide to Black and White Photography
Essential Guide to Black and White Photography
Essential Guide to Black and White Photography
Essential Guide to Black and White Photography
Essential Guide to Black and White Photography