Get Out There Photography | Weekly Tips&Tricks #2 – Black and White
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Weekly Tips&Tricks #2 – Black and White

Weekly Tips&Tricks #2 – Black and White

Let’s be honest, who doesn’t like a good black and white (B&W) photo? Once, a friend of mine told me that B&W photos are like fried food, doesn’t matter what you fry it’ll be delicious, even if it’s badly done.

Another friend once told me she didn’t like B&W pictures, and I was surprised by this statement. At the time, I was at the beginning of my photography studies and practice so I wonder what was all this fuss about B&W.

If you know what you’re doing B&W pictures are stunning and you can learn how to see the difference between an intentional B&W and just an-artistic-wannabe-so-I-put-B&W-to-give-some-dramatic-effect.

Here a few tips&tricks for you:

#1 – Some terminology: Monochrome, Grayscale and B&W

I said till now B&W because it’s a common reference. We need to consider, though, that actually when you see a B&W image on our computer is a Grayscale. Grayscale images use only 256 shades of gray rather than the full pallet of colours. This to not be confused with monochrome images. If a photo is monochrome doesn’t mean it’ll be necessary B&W. Monochrome photos are photos that contain variations of only one colour and nothing else. This could be different shades of blue, green, or grey, for example.

#2 – Contrast is everything

B&W pictures are all about the contrast between blacks and whites. That means that you must be very careful in how you’re using the light and which colours (yes colours) are in your pictures. I’m talking about colours because you must play with their intensity, which will be translated into the Grayscale. Few colours don’t necessarily mean good B&W.

Tip if you’re shooting a portrait: heavier make up helps. Of course, it depends on which effect you want to achieve and what kind of mood, but a darker lipstick will help the lips to be more define. In general, if you are a portrait photographer, take any chance that you can to work with a professional Makeup Artist and whenever it is possible with a costume designer. These professional figures will bring your work to the perfection level. I’ve also to say, that during my work as an assistant on movies set, I learned so much from these departments, there are so much studying and skills behind it. (BTW Get Out There Photography is constantly looking for collaborations, so if you are a MUA or a custome designer don’t hesitate to contact me)

#3 – Use flash to intensify the contrast

This is a tricky tip. It always depends on what you’re doing and which effect you want to obtain. Let’s just say that the flash can help you to intensify the contrast in some cases, in others it’ll reduce the shades.

Flashes are not easy to use. Just remember the base: the flash will light up what is right in front of it. If you have a directional flash, then you can use it in a smart way bouncing the light on walls.

It’s just a complex topic and it takes lots of practice to understand how and when to use it. Maybe I’ll dedicate a tips&tricks just for it. Just remember, if you’re photographing with your phone, I suggest to never use it.

#4 – Why should I go B&W?

That’s not for me to answer, but it’s something that you should know according to the work you’re doing. However, sometimes the photographer chooses B&W because, in portraits, they say it highlights the intensity of the image and above all, they can better capture the reality of the person represented. That’s because colours sometimes are a distraction. B&W gives back also the feeling of a time suspension. Now, it doesn’t mean that you must shoot everything in B&W to get more intensity, just build up your aesthetic, practice a lot and you’ll learn when it’s necessary the B&W and when the colour.

#5 – It’s not a solution for bad colour pictures

Ok ok, I did it too and you did it too. A picture that in colour didn’t work well, it looked stunning in B&W, you didn’t plan it but it was like that. Well, you’re forgiven. However, having awareness of what you’re doing will change the quality of your work. If you know you’ll shoot B&W you’ll set your camera so to create more contrast between shadows and light. If you recognise that there is a strong source of light, like on a stage while a musician is playing, then you can close the aperture and reduce the ISO, the effect will be a bright artist, while what it surrounds it will be dark, almost disappearing.

If you know what you’re doing, you’ll be able to use your tools at the best and improve the quality of your material. 



#6 – B&W is great for abstract pics

Because B&W takes out the “distraction” of colours, it’s a great solution to play with patterns, texture and compose more abstract pictures.