How to Master Black and White Photography

Why I love monochrome:

1. You must love the aesthetic

First of all, you gotta LOVE monochrome. 

I remember when I first started photography, the first time I saw a monochrome photo, I was blown away.

Monochrome simplified the world. Made it more interesting, surreal, and beautiful.

Also early on, most of my inspirations shot in monochrome (Henri Cartier-Bresson and Bruce Gilden), which got me into monochrome.

2. Effortless force

If you want to master monochrome, you don’t gotta force yourself. You must do it because you LOVE IT SO MUCH, and that you’re SO PASSIONATE about monochrome imagery that you naturally pursue it with all your heart, soul and vigor.

3. Study the best

To master monochrome, study the best. For me that includes:

For example some great photos by my buddy Charlie Kirk: (learn more about his street photography tips here).

4. Dissect what makes a great monochrome image

Some visual inspiration — HENRI CARTIER-BRESON:

Or use iPad or iPhone to screenshot photos you like, then draw and sketch on top of them, to discover the “visual gist”of the photo, and why it feels good:

Or some of my favorite images by JOSEF KOUDELKA:

5. Evolve within the medium

Why did HCB quit photography and lose inspiration and motivation, while JOSEF KOUDELKA stayed motivated well past his 80s?

My thought:

Allowing yourself to grow, evolve, change, and become more.

For example we can mark Koudelka’s evolution:

  1. Abstract photo
  2. Theater photo
  3. War documentary
  4. Photographing and living with the Roma people (Gypsies book)
  5. Wandering for his Exiles book
  6. Panoramics for his Chaos book
  7. He still is going!

6. Allow yourself to bounce around

I started monochrome, bounced around in color, bounced around in film, and am constantly experimenting. Perhaps the secret to mastering a medium is to not chain yourself to it — instead, allowing yourself to bounce around and evolve naturally.

Also allow for different equipment:

Some iPhone Pro and noir images: