Practical tips to make better black and white photos:
Black and White Articles
- How to Master Black and White Street Photography
- Black and White Photography Theory
- CRUSH THE BLACKS.
- Start With a Black Canvas
- Why Shoot Black and White?
Henri Cartier-Bresson Black and White Composition
1. Simple and clean background
Shoot from a high angle, make sure to look at the edges, that there are no distractions. Then make a simple and elegant black and white photo, like this image by Henri Cartier-Bresson. Note the surrealism of the shot:
A simple way to make more enigmatic black and white photos: capture hand-gestures!
3. Use a flash
By using a flash, you will more edginess to the photo, and increase the contrast of the photo!
Tip: Shoot flash during the day! As an example, see this silhouette photo I shot of a man at the Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi. By even using flash during the day, it kept him as a silhouette, but still illuminated the flowers in the foreground (shot in P/program mode on RICOH GR II, with integrated flash):
Or you can experiment by shooting both with and without a flash. For example a portrait of Cindy with and without flash, shot on RICOH GR II x ERIC KIM PRESETS:
Also if you’re going to shoot street photography during the day, use a flash on your subjects who are in the shade to cause them to ‘pop out’ of the background, like I did with this man here:
Create a more epic black and white photo by shooting at -1 or -2 exposure-compensation, to darken the background, to make your subject into a silhouette; thus making the scene more mysterious and interesting to look at!
5. Simple background
Find a simple background, like a clean white or grey wall, and wait for your subjects to enter the scene (fishing technique):
Or what you can do is find interesting leading-lines, and wait for your subject to enter as well:
6. Photograph your subject against the sky
To create more ‘figure to ground’ (separation) between your subject and the background, just photograph them against a clear sky:
7. Photograph shadows
To make a more mysterious photo, photograph the shadows of your subjects.
Pro-tip: Shoot shadows during sunset (around 6-7pm), when the shadows of your subject get very long, like I did with this ‘Pinnochio shadow’ woman nose:
8. Decapitation technique
Don’t photograph the face of your subject, just ask to photograph their hands, which makes the photographs more mysterious. This is a photo of a woman’s nails I shot in Downtown LA with a flash, when she initially rejected me to shoot a portrait of her:
9. Get very close.
Robert Capa said, “If your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” It’s true. In this portrait, I shot macro mode wirh RICOH GR II, with flash in P mode. The reason the photograph is powerful, is because it feels so intimate:
10. Single eye
To make a dramatic photo, find a strong stream of light, and ask your subject to stand in front of it. Then shoot -1 or -2 exposure compensation, and only get one eye exposed.
Tip: Use the “burn” tool in Photoshop or Lightroom to selectively darken parts of the frame you find distracting. For example with this woman with braids, I burned away her right shoulder:
Black and White Photos by ERIC KIM