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5 Tips for Stunning Black & White Photography

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Creating a great black and white image involves more than just dropping the saturation on just any photo. Black and white is an art form all its own and begins before you ever pickup your camera. In this tutorial, we hit the streets of Chicago to focus on five photography fundamentals that are crucial for creating beautiful images in monochrome.

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Symmetry Helps with Better Composition

Symmetry, patterns, and texture are all closely related and can yield impressive photographs when captured and converted to black and white. If you’re having trouble getting the image you want from further back, don’t be afraid to get up close! Move in and look for repeating patterns, lines, and balance.

Now pick up your camera and try looking at the world in black and white!

If you’re looking for some pro tips on how to convert your images to monochrome, check out our PRO tutorial How to Master Black & White in Photoshop. We break down professional techniques to create impressive, balanced images without the use of color.

Eliminate Distractions & Aim for Simplicity

Without color to help distinguish different parts of an image, it can be difficult to capture photos that don’t look and feel flat. You can overcome this obstacle by keeping your frame as simple as possible. Instead of looking for complex scenes, try to identify simple shapes, forms, and textures that stand out.

Seek Out Interesting Angles & Perspectives

There are no boring subjects or locations. If you’re having trouble creating an interesting image wherever you’re at, try experimenting with the angle and perspective of your shot. Not only can this help simplify your photos but it will also help you capture a location or a subject in a completely original way.

Look for Leading Lines (and Other Interesting Composition)

Shooting in Chicago, we’re surrounded by parallel streets, large vertical structures, and tunnel-like views. Any time you have lines or structures that seem to extend out to the horizon, it’s a perfect situation to capture leading lines. Leading lines are one of the most powerful compositional techniques available and are a powerful way to pull a viewer into an image. Streets, railroad tracks, buildings, rivers – there are countless examples that you can take advantage of when you’re out shooting.

No leading lines available? Research and experiment with other forms of composition as well! Photography isn’t about what you can capture in a frame, it’s about how to place objects and subjects within a frame to maximize interest.

Focus on Light and Shadow

Color is an incredibly power tool to help separate objects and subjects in a photo. For example, photographing someone in a red shirt against a green background immediately adds depth and interest to an image.

In monochrome however, every color is converted to a shade of gray. When shooting, it’s important to think with tonal range in mind. Areas of darker gray (nearly black) and very light gray (nearly white) will be far more interesting and dynamic than just having shades all near the middle of the spectrum. Black and white photography utilizes light in its purest form. Being able to quickly identify areas of light, shadow, and high contrast will go a long way in helping your subjects stand out.

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