Create striking black and white still life photography.
Learn how to capture powerful still life images with this guide to black and white photography.
Sometimes constraints can enhance your creative product. Think of poetry: a haiku's syllable and line limits force the writer to slow down and think about each word deliberately. This sort of exercise pares down the work of art to its simplest, most beautiful form. Every word, every syllable has a purpose.
A black and white still life photo is similar. By eliminating color and focusing on detail, you’re forced to reckon with the simplest elements of your photo. How can you convey the beauty, the drama, the essence of your composition?
Explore three fundamental elements of black and white still life photography, and learn how you can create striking images with three simple tips.
Master three brilliant basics.
A black and white still life image removes both the color and the scale of landscape that are easy to lean on in photography. Instead, it draws attention to the three other building blocks of a powerful image. Learn more about each below so you can focus on them in your next photoshoot.
- Shape. Straight lines, curves, and negative spaces — the contours that outline shapes and separate them — bring together a composition for a viewer. Lay out your objects asymmetrically, drawing attention to the varying gaps between them. Choose objects of differing sizes and shapes to bring contrast and draw the eye around the image.
- Tone. Without color, tone becomes central. Tone refers to the range of brightness in a photo, from pure white to pure black. Your lighting will create this tone — the more intense and focused the light source and brightness, the bigger the contrast between your lights and darks and the more dramatic the effect.
- Texture. Focusing on texture — and juxtaposition of texture — brings even more drama to your photo. Think of rough tree bark next to a calm body of water. Grains of sand in a smooth hourglass. A jagged starfruit next to a glossy apple. Paired textures create visceral feelings, bringing a viewer into your image.
Follow up with three tips.
- Focus on composition. How do you want to guide your viewer's eyes around your piece? Lay out your objects to create interesting gaps, spaces, contrasts, and designs.
- Find your perspective. In a still life, perspective can make all the difference. A head-on shot produces a flat and stark effect, while an angled one might be more dynamic. A close crop on one detail or pattern creates abstraction, while a full-view shot allows more room to play with shapes and negative space.
- Rely on lighting. Lighting is your color in a black and white still life. Use it to create contrast and shadow. You can use a single, bright source to make strong one-directional shadows or multiple sources to illuminate your objects in new ways.
Explore even more ideas for creative composition, dramatic lighting, and unique perspectives for your next black and white still life shoot.