Tutorial Tuesday: Creating Powerful Black and White Images

I love black and white photography. A monochrome image is so powerful to me. When you strip a photo down to the bare bones like that, there is nothing to hide behind. You have the opportunity to bare your soul and vision.

Creating a powerful black and white image is not as easy as flipping the switch in your editing software. The power behind a black and white photo with impacts starts before you even click the shutter. Below are a few of my tips for creating powerful black and white images.

1. Light

It's always about the light isn't it? There is a reason why photographers are always talking about chasing the light, finding the light, their love affair with light. Light can completely change your image depending on what kind light it is and how you use it. It's important to think about the way you use light especially when you are shooting with the intent of a black and white image. 

Light has qualities that help bring depth to an images. Adding the illusion of depth and dimension is a great way to add impact to your photo. Think about how you can use light in different ways to show the depth in the scene. Two of my favorite ways to do this is use lens flare and to exaggerate the shadows. Let the light and shadows wrap around your subject to create a dynamic image.

2. Moment

When you strip down to black and white you are taking many other storytelling elements out of the scene. You don't have the subtle meanings that color can add to reinforce stories. But what you do still have is moment. Use converting to black and white as a way to embrace and highlight the moment and the details. Think about the details you need to include (or exclude) from the scene to give the viewer the cues they need to feel the moment.

3. Visual Interest

A monochromatic image is a great way to draw attention to things like patterns and shapes. These types of things in your photo can add another layer of interest. Using negative space in black and white photography is another great way to add impact.


4. Contrast

You have to be able to see contrast in your black and white photos in order for there to be an impact. A black and white image that is mostly similar tones of gray is not going to have the same impact as a black and white photo with contrast. Find this contrast when you are composing your shot. Look for where the light and the shadows come together in a bold or interesting way.

When you are shooting, visualize the black and white shot in your mind first. Think about all the elements that are important for that shot. Begin to see the world in black and white so you can begin to see the opportunity for powerful black and white images!