If you’ve ever taken a quick food selfie before digging…
Black and white was the original standard in photography, but with the advent of colour film it quickly became an artistic affectation. As a result, a million amateur photographers each year briefly think they’ve discovered the shortcut to powerful photos simply by changing their filter settings and producing black and white photos.
Black and white does have an inherent power that can lend any photo a little more depth and power, that’s true. But if you leave it at that, you’re missing out on the real power of this simplest of all photography techniques. In order to end up with truly amazing black and white photographs, there are few basics you should adhere to.
The Black and the White
The biggest mistake people make with black and white photography is simply snapping a photo and assuming draining the colour will do the heavy lifting. The power of a black and white photo is the deep black and the startling white that bookend all the shades in-between, so take advantage of that by making your background one or the other: Instead of having a deep background, make your subject stand in front of a wall or other background that will turn into a deep field of black or a bright field of white.
With a black background, your subject will bleed into it, as if materialising from shadows. With a white background, your subject will be framed crisply and sharply, almost too real with every detail popping from the photo.
One reason black and white remains one of the most popular photography techniques is the way it makes even the smallest details clear and dramatic. Use this to your advantage and get in close to your subject. When taking portraits, instead of the medium-distance of most regular photos, choose to get in very close. Make faces fill the frame, and you’ll be rewarded with mesmerising photos that force attention upon themselves, and the subject will reveal new depths and details every time you look at it.
That level of detail also rewards rich textures. When taking portraits, consider asking your subjects to forego make up, as imperfection is interest when it comes to black and white photos. And when dressing your subject or composing your photo try to bring in rich texture – the more texture you get into the frame, the more the viewer will feel like they could possibly reach out and lift something from your photo.
Black and white is a powerful tool, so often misused it’s very easy to discount it as a cheap trick. But when you take into account the texture, background, and composition of your black and white photos you’re rewarded with art that is dramatic, powerful, and arresting. When you’ve tried your hand at some amazing black and white photography, click here and we’ll be happy to turn them into amazing wall art.