However, especially with black-and-white portraits, you may choose to play with the harsher shadows of the midday sun. A higher-contrast look can add some drama. “Typically your softer light hours are best. But that’s not to say that you can’t shoot directly outside at high noon, because it can convey a completely different emotion just by how harsh the shadows are,” says Morgan.
“I choose the time of day for a photoshoot based on the type of lighting I want,” says Kravitz. “I love the light at three in the afternoon because that is where — if we were in a studio — I would set up a light.”
Cameras and equipment for black-and-white portraits.
Don’t overthink your equipment needs if you’re just getting started. All you truly need to explore black-and-white portraits is a smartphone camera. Even professional portrait photographers sometimes travel light. “Typically, the only things I bring when I go on location are my camera, some extra batteries, and a reflector,” says Morgan.
Mirrorless cameras give accurate previews.
Mirrorless digital cameras show you exactly how your image will turn out. “What you see is what you get through the viewfinder,” says Kravitz. “With a mirrorless, you’re seeing what the sensor sees, so you can control all the settings on the fly. You see it before you even hit the shutter button.” With your previews set to black and white, you’ll be able to fine-tune the shadows, composition, and light in your black-and-white photos while you’re shooting.
How to think about reflectors and lighting.
For outdoor portrait shoots, a reflector set is your best friend. White or metallic reflectors can help you redirect natural light back at your subject to fill unflattering shadows. And a translucent reflector can help diffuse harsh direct sunlight, so it falls more softly onto someone’s face.
For indoor shoots or those where you’d like more control, you can sculpt your highlights and shadows with artificial lights. Understanding how to light portraits is an art form in itself. “There’s no one-size-fits-all for lighting. There are a million different ways, and everybody’s preferences are a little bit different,” says Morgan. “You won’t know what you like or where your abilities are until you get out there and do it.”