Photography - Knowledge

Black and White Photography: A Beginner's Guide

2783 Views - 4 mins read

Colours are very powerful and dominating. They dominate the photo so much so that the other elements of photography – contrast, texture, shape and lights — sometimes take a severe beating. With the dawn of technology in digital cameras and the availability of options of capturing in the black and white mode, black and white photography has regained its lost glory.

They leave a lasting impression on the viewer as compared to coloured photos. It is rightly said,

When you photograph people in colour, you photograph their appearance.
But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls

There are photographers who capture coloured pictures and convert them into black and white during the final editing. But these photographs fail miserably to influence the audience as compared to the original black-and-white photography techniques since editing robs the photograph of its sheen.

Black and white photography can be time-consuming but the result is worth all the time and effort, so what follows is a guide to black and white photography.


Techniques and Tips for Black and White Photography

Contrast and Lighting

For an ideal composition, look for a subject which offers you a wide range of tonality with grays along with contrast and lighting.

As you cannot use colour to distinguish the different elements in the images , so contrast and lighting play a vital role.

A Beginner’s Guide to Doing Black and White Photography

If you take a photo in flat light, the images will look two dimensional. Increasing the contrast and adding adequate light can create a much stronger image.

Play with contrast and lighting but with care because if not used correctly, they can be distracting.

Texture, Leading Lines and Postures

You need to train your eyes to see the texture, lines, and postures, as they are an indispensable characteristic composition of your photographs.

A Beginner’s Guide to Doing Black and White Photography

Doing so and experimenting with them will help you create lovely images casting an everlasting impression on your viewers.

The positioning of the subject in contrast to the background can create lines and postures which can easily attract viewer’s attention and bring life to the image.

HDR Mode

HDR is the ideal mode to shoot black-and-white photos. You will be surprised with the results.

It helps you capture images with adequately exaggerated dynamic range and edges.

A Beginner’s Guide to Doing Black and White Photography

It can be used to shoot in both different lighting conditions and raw mode. In new DSLR cameras, there is an option to click vibrant pictures by just switching to the HDR mode. Nothing can beat a black-and-white HDR image.


Apart from lights, patterns and shapes can be of great help to create a dynamic and pleasing image in black and white photography.

Patterns make the image look interesting due to the ordered repetition .

A Beginner’s Guide to Doing Black and White Photography

Patterns are more compelling than colours , as colours often distract and shape and patterns go unseen. Once you start looking for patterns, you can find them everywhere, for example, cars in a parking lot or a row of bushes.

ISO Setting

Set the ISO to the lowest setting possible. This is important to avoid noise in the photographs. Earlier when photographers did not have digital cameras at their disposal, high-ISO films were shot on their instant camera.

A Beginner’s Guide to Doing Black and White Photography

Though photographers still prefer the grainy look in most of the black-and-white photographs, try and keep it low. You can add the grain effect in the post-production stage .

It is always preferable to click a good shot with less noise rather than a noiseless shot where the subject is a blur.

Also, learn and understand ISO in 4 easy steps!


For the perfect black and white photography technique, it is necessary to see the world in monochromatic colors. Once you have mastered this art, you can easily select situations which are suitable for black-and-white shots.

A Beginner’s Guide to Doing Black and White Photography

You need to look at the subject in terms of shadows, contrast, lines and shapes to determine the flawless manner in which the subject can be captured. While trying to see black and white in this world of colourful hues, you might notice a subject which nobody has even dreamed of.

Natural Lights

The word photography was derived from Greek roots, meaning “painting with light.” The quality of a photo depends on the lighting. You can capture black and white photographs in all lighting conditions. But the best light is the one created by the sun. It is a widely accepted misconception that black and white images can be captured best at dawn or dusk, but it is just the opposite.

A Beginner’s Guide to Doing Black and White Photography

You will get the perfect shot in the middle of the day, as in the noon time, heavier shadows are created, which help emphasize lines, shapes and postures.

Remember, midday light is great for architecture and an overcast day is ideal for portraits.


The secret is to ensure that natural light complements the subject.

RAW Format

Most of the digital cameras have an option with black and white preset. It is preferable to shoot in RAW format using the black and white option as it gives you an increased control over the final image.

A Beginner’s Guide to Doing Black and White Photography

While shooting the image you can bring more detail, sharpness, and tonality. You have a wide range of size, exposure, and detail to manipulate in the RAW mode. While shooting with this feature, you can view how the image will appear in the black and white photography mode.

The black and white medium is fun to work with. You can appreciate the subject and express the true emotion and message without any distraction, which is generally cloaked by the colors.

So, when are you starting? Do let us know!

Image Source