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Though black and white photographs look clean and simple, they can be difficult to pull off well.
It makes sense, too, because most of us see the world in vivid color, and changing our mindset to “see in black and white” is a process that can take months or even years to perfect.
But when everything clicks and you create a gorgeous black and white image, it’s tough to beat. In a world saturated with color, a black and white photo can stand out beautifully and pull viewers in like no other photograph can.
To help you get to that point, here’s four tips for improved black and white photos.
How to Get Better Black and White Photos: Find High Contrast Scenes
Black and white photos really shine when there’s strong dynamic range in the scene. Without color to provide visual interest, lots of highlights and shadows take on that job.
Strong lighting - like that you find when shooting during midday - can look awful in a color photo, but as a black and white photo, all that harsh light and shadows comes to life.
This isn’t to say that you can’t create a beautiful black and white photo when there isn’t a ton of contrast, but by and large, the more contrast, the better.
Low-contrast scenes can appear to be very dull and gray, so you have to be very careful when converting a low-contrast shot to black and white.
Black and White Photography Tip: Simplify the Scene
One of the benefits of creating black and white photos is that they can simplify even the most chaotic scenes.
That is, what appears as an overly saturated, colorful distraction in the color version of the shot blends into the background of the black and white version.
But more than that, when you’re out shooting photos with the purpose of turning them into black and white shots, try simplifying the scene to begin with.
Get in close. Fill the frame. Have a single, strong subject that immediately grabs people’s attention.
You don’t need a lot in a black and white photo to create something dramatic, so focus on finding contrast and a strong subject, and in most cases, you’ll be just fine!
Improve Black and White Photography by Focusing on Shapes, Lines, Patterns, and Textures
As noted earlier, in the absence of color, contrast can add visual interest to a black and white photo.
Shapes, lines, patterns, and textures can do the same.
Though you probably don’t want to try to add all of these elements into one black and white shot, try incorporating one element into a shot to see how it helps improve the visual appeal of the image.
You can do this in a variety of ways - fill the frame with a pattern, find a texture to highlight in the foreground, make a shape the focal point of the shot, or find strong lines that cast definite shadows in the image.
Though each of these elements has a profoundly different impact on the photo, what they have in common is that the details they create help make up for a lack of color.
How to Print Black and White Photos: Give Canvas a Try
I’m a firm believer in having your photos printed. Call me old-school, but I just hate the idea that billions of photos are taken every year and most of them end up staying on our phones, memory cards, and hard drives, never to see the light of day.
I’m not saying that you should have every photo you take printed, but when you have one you’re quite impressed with, print that sucker out!
I especially like to have black and white photos printed on Canvas.
The fine texture of the canvas gives a nice depth to the print, and as discussed earlier, that texture can help the image become just a little more interesting in the absence of color.
I’ve tried probably half a dozen canvas printing companies over the years, and while most of them weren’t very impressive, CanvasHQ knocked my socks off.
They’ve been my go-to printer for years now, and every time I get a canvas in the mail, I’m blown away by the quality of the craftsmanship.
The folks at CanvasHQ use only the finest materials - archival-grade canvas, commercial-grade inks that resist fading, and kiln-dried wood for the frames that are handmade to ensure the canvas stretches properly and stays that way for generations.
Like I said, not every single photo you take should be printed, let alone as a large format canvas.
But why not go big with the photos you most adore? The CanvasHQ team can help you determine the best size, the best finish, image effects, the frame depth, and more. That’s true whether you have a black and white or color image to print.
If you want to bring out the best in your black and white photos, give these tips a try, perfect the shot in post-processing, and have it printed so you can enjoy your hard work for years and years to come.