The Filter photography podcast is back with more free photography tips in episode 13 – spooky! What better way to mark the unlucky number 13 with some black and white photography tips?

But first, speaking of black and white photography, have you seen my cute new headshot?

Matt Walter headshot
by Maddi McAvoy

Look at how happy I am. You know why I am so happy? Because we hit over 200,000 minutes of watched content on my YouTube videos! That is 19.84 weeks, 138 days, 3,333 hours, etc. That’s huge. Thank you so much!

What’s the difference between a black and white photo and a monochrome photo?

Black and white photography is taking a monochrome photo, but monochrome doesn’t have to be black and white for it to be considered ‘monochrome’. I’m not going to bother telling you what mono means (it means one or something that is only single), so you can imagine how monochrome images doesn’t have to be black and white. It can be green and white, brown and super light tan for example, but it has to be shades of one colour. Black and white photos are monochrome because it goes from the blackest shade all the way to the lightest, purest white.

Black and white benefits

There are a few reasons why black and white images are worth toying around with.

When I edit my music photography work, sometimes the nasty red lights are so harsh, there is no amount of colour editing that can improve it. If you ever see some of my black and white photos and wonder why I chose that editing style, it’s probably because the colouring was cooked.

Black and white photography editing can also help simplify the image. Creating a striking image is about drawing the viewers eye to something, or evoking some kind of emotion. When you take a photo, and there are so many competing colours, it can make it harder to deliver that purpose easily. The viewer can get distracted by elements in the photo. Making an image black and white can help simplify the image and increase your chances of evoking the right emotion.

How to make your black and white images pop

Emphasise the lines

Since you don’t have any colour in the image, you need to rely on your lines to make it striking. The texture of the subject is what is going to be most interesting in most black and white photos, so you’re going to need to emphasise the details and bring out all those crisp, sharp edges and lines. The easiest way to do that is to use your clarity slider to make the edges more dynamic. Sharpen the image afterwards of course, but using your clarity slider can improve the contrast along the lines, not just the overall image.

Make use of negative space

Negative space is a positive thing. I had to say it. Negative space is the area around a subject that has nothing in it or purposely left blank to create an impact on the photo’s subject.

If there’s something in there that clutters your image or pollutes where you want the negative space to be, take it out. The easiest way to do it is to use your cloning brush or spot healing brush. Since the surrounding area should be your otherwise perfect negative space, you’re going to find it easy to sample an area you want to replace the unwanted object with.

Blast the contrast

One of the most common issues I see with black and white photography is the lack of tonal contrast. When a black and white image has no contrast, it almost looks faded and has no depth. It’s not like you want it to be 3D or anything, but you need to have some depth to the image to make it striking. Since you don’t have colour to lean on to make your image eye-catching, you need to have an appropriate amount of contrast in the image.

You know where the contrast slider is, so don’t forget to increase it a little when you’re editing your black and white photos. Don’t overcook it, but use it. Even though I warn you not to over crank it, I have seen some awesome, high contrast street photography stuff where the contrast has given it a unique style. Check out Ikkō Narahara and Daidō Moriyama, two amazing Japanese photographers who have a style of high contrast black and white photography. Most of their fine art is film photography, but regardless of whether you make it with film camera or a digital camera, the concept of contrast being crucial remains the same.

Black and white photography examples

Black and white photography of a rose
Cristiane Teston
Black and white photography of a mountain
Kunj Parekh
Black and white photography of a basketball hoop
Montylov
Black and white photography of a bird
Nine Kopfer
Black and white photography of a cross
Orkhan Farmanli
Black and white photography of a leafed wall
Rodion Kutsaev
Black and white photography of a girl
Stherya Priyahita

If you missed last episode, you can check it out here.

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