How to capture stunning black and white photos

Follow these tips to create monochrome images full of drama and interest.

Capturing exciting and memorable images that stand the test of time can take a little more effort than simply switching your settings to black and white or converting the image in Lightroom. Without the full spectrum of colour to fall back on, black and white photography can sometimes need a little thought and planning, but the rewards are worth it.

Striking images played out in a monochrome palette give a wonderful sense of drama, with seemingly minor details and textures bringing a whole new dimension to your work.

Check out these tips to make your black and white images really stand out.

Get the basics right

Grain and noise can be more noticeable in black and white photos, so you’ll want to keep your ISO as low as you can. This may mean opening up your aperture or reducing your shutter speeds to get the highest quality image available. You may even need to use a tripod to keep your camera steady, so you can capture sharp shots in lower light.

Look for contrast

Black and white photography is as all about contrast. Look for areas of light and shadow to produce an image with interest and depth rather than a flat, two-dimensional shot. These areas of high contrast add a powerful sense of drama to your photo.

Landscape and street photography are great subjects for converting to black and white, with a bright sky playing against a dark landscape or an alleyway shrouded in shadow taking on a mysterious air.

For portraits, think about how you illuminate your subject to introduce light and shade for a dramatic result.

Think about your composition

Classic composition rules such as the rule of thirds make just as much impact in black and white photography, if not more, than colour. Placing your subject in one-third of your composition and leaving two-thirds more empty draws attention to your point of focus, with the negative space adding a pleasing balance.

Add texture

Without colour providing interest, texture is key with black and white images. Pay attention to subtle details, such as brickwork or the gnarly bark of an old tree, or think about accentuating facial features such as freckles or lines in your portraits.

Of course, taking the photograph is only the first step. With powerful tools available in Lightroom and Photoshop, your black and white photography will take on a whole new level.

Discover other great techniques to bring your photography to life, no matter your skill level.