Black and White
Photography Techniques

"Most black and white photography techniques can be simplified
down to a few primary techniques and then
be combined to create new ones."

Use Contrasting Tones

Since we are working with black and white, color is meaningless. Here, photographers must be able to see the different tones in the scene.

Different colors can present the same tone. Even though the photographer may see a change from one color to another, the tone may not change. Contrasting tones are necessary to bring definition and depth to black and white photography.

Don’t worry; contrasting tones can be forced. One way is to change light intensity in order to create deeper shadows. Another technique is to experiment with different colored filters.

Colored Filters

If the lack of contrasting tones is due to different colors that appear as the same tone in black and white, colored filters can be used to change the tone of some of the colors.

Yellow filters only have a small effect on tone. They slightly lighten reds, oranges and yellows. These are commonly used to protect lenses and give a nice effect to black and white landscapes.

Orange filters lighten oranges and reds, but darken blues and greens.

Red filters have the most dramatic effect on the tones of colors. Blues and greens become much darker, while pinks and oranges become much lighter (almost white).

Green filters have the opposite effect of orange filters. With green filters, oranges and reds are darkened while greens and blues become lighter.

The unnatural contrasts that this technique creates can cause very interesting effects.

Textures and Patterns

Sharp changes in textures and patterns can be used to bring more attention to the subject.

A figure breaking through tall grass may stand out more in a black and white shot than it would in color.

Add a Splash of Color

Adding a bit of color to the subject, while keeping the rest of the shot black and white, causes a dramatic effect. It also draws attention directly to the subject.

This technique has been used since the beginning of photography. Back when black and white was the only option with photography, artists would paint the color directly on the picture.

Today, in the digital age, photographers use software to add color. A nice tutorial that shows hot to perform this technique with Photoshop can be found here.

I hope these black and white photography techniques have given you something to think about when capturing a scene in tones.

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