How to Take Awesome Black and White Photos

By On3legs Contributor: Jasmine Body

Black and white photography has become very popular

It’s considered more of a fine art type of photography now. The idea behind the black and white effect is to show the contrast and the tonal values of your subject and emphasis the shadows and highlights within the image.

While the ideal time to take photographs is considered to be during the blue and golden hour. Black and white photography thrives off slightly brighter situations, as the shadows and highlights tend to be more prominent. However there are many exceptions to this rule. Some important things to consider when setting up your shot are:


The first and most important thing to remember…

If you are serious about black and white photography, or photography at all you should be shooting in RAW. Raw is the highest quality file a camera can give you, recording all the possible information from your photo and depending on the brand, each camera has their own native Raw file (Nikon is NEF and Canon is CRW).

This is a setting found on your camera. The reason for switching from Jpg (or whatever you use) to raw is that it offers so much more in post processing and easily fixes overexposure issues in photographs. What is especially good for black and whites is the ability to adjust and recover highlight and shadows dramatically without affecting the overall quality of the photo.


When it comes to taking the photo, your composition needs to be well though out. This is because the colour element that may assist or be an important part of your style of photography isn’t available. Using techniques such as listed below will significantly improve both coloured and black and white photographs.

By incorporating at least one of these techniques, your photograph will draw in more attention from the viewer and produce more interest.


Texture is another important part of composing a black and white photograph. The contrast between a smooth and rough texture can have a massive impact on the photo.

For example, the photograph below presents two juxtaposed textures. The bridge and ocean are clean and smooth, whereas the sand is rather rough and messy. This produces more interest than if the bottom of the image was to be cropped and the sand left out.


As a black and white photo is restricted to two colours, the subject can tend to look a bit boring and flat. To avoid this try to choose subjects with lots of tonal values, this means different shades or tints of colour like in the rocks in the example below. This will not only emphasis your subject but the environment around it as it helps to create more depth and interest.

Highlights and Shadows

Another point to consider is the highlights and shadows within your shot. Setting up, even for a coloured shot it is important to take note of the shadows and highlights. Not only for under and overexposure reasons but also for composition, as a sharp shadow could act as a leading line and depending on the desired result, distract or attract viewers.

Balance and simplicity

When choosing your subject its important evaluate the balance and simplicity aspect of your intended image. When creating a black and white photograph the balance between the two colours, the highlights and shadows and the different textures is imperative in creating an aesthetically pleasing photograph.

If the subjects are too complicated the photograph can easily become confusing and uninteresting, making it too difficult for your viewers to fully explore and enjoy. Whereas a simple well composed photograph with a story told through tones and textures is more likely to appeal to your audience. This is because it is effortless to look at and easier to decide whether they like it or not.


Making you a better Photographer

Black and white photography may seem to be a step back in time, but it teaches you to really look at the photograph and how you take it. Without the aid of colour or low light atmosphere, black and white photography pushes you to use composition amongst many more elements to create a better image.

Practicing this technique will better your compositional skills, furthering your photography and enabling you to apply what you have learnt to coloured photographs in turn creating beautiful quality composed photos.

Jasmine is a Photographer specialising in beautiful Australian landscapes and destination photography. Location Independent and currently visiting Nhulunbuy (Gove), NT Australia. Jasmine’s style is inspired by capturing a sense of time and movement whilst producing a pleasing and realistic image. Jasmine is Author of Raw Design, a photography and design blog based on her graphic design and photography studies, tutorials and photo journal. Check out the RAW Design Blog here

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