Tips for Better Black and White Pictures

Tips for black and white photos         I love a good black and white photo. In college, my classmates and I shot in black and white film  (with the exception of one class) for the entire four years of college. Digital photography didn't quite make its appearance until after I graduated. It's crazy how the tides have changed completely! In college I used a manual film camera, developed the film by shaking the canister with different chemicals, let the film strip dry, then made a test sheet with my negatives using a little machine called an enlarger. Then I made photos on the enlarger, developed the photos in the darkroom using different chemical baths, and lastly dried the photos. All of this happened in a darkroom with a dim, red light bulb. This took hours upon hours of time! When digital cameras first came on the scene, I couldn't believe we had the ability to take a picture and INSTANTLY see it on a screen! I was floored by my first digital camera (it was 3.4 megapixels). Now we even have great cameras on our phones that take stunning photos. Oh how the times have changed!

Tips for black and white photos    In the same sense, many years ago, people only knew black and white photography. Imagine the excitement when the first color photographs were seen. Or the first time you saw a colored photograph of yourself!? You know on The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy's house lands and the entire movie switches to color? It's magic, I tell ya. Pure magic.

But even through all of the changes in technology, black and white photography still holds a special place in people's hearts.

Tips for black and white photosThe images have a classic look to them and they never go out of style (cue Taylor Swift song). Black and white has the ability to bring a sense of wonder to a photo. Some black and white photos are more striking than others, but what causes that? In this post I'll be talking about WHEN you should use a black and white photo and WHAT makes a great black and white photo.

Tips for black and white photos Great Light: First, it's all about the light. If you have a strong light source in your photo (ie: the sun light sweeping across your table in the morning), then it will likely look great in black and white. The transitioning from light to dark makes your eye bounce around the picture frame.

Tips for black and white photos        Contrast: Contrast in a photo will make a more striking black and white. If you have a subject standing in front of a brightly lit window with their silhouette outlined, the b&w gives the feeling of a sharper silhouette when the color is gone. The bright white compared to the dark black will make your image more striking. While contrast is wonderful, you also want your image to have tones. When a colored photograph is converted to b&w, the colors are turned to tones. More colors in your photograph mean more tonal range in your photo.

Tips for black and white photos      Shapes and lines: Photographs with strong lines and shapes always look great in b&w. Black and white photos have the ability to quiet a scene and diminish the noise, allowing you to focus on the subject matter. Shapes become stronger, edges become sharper, and textures look more pronounced.

Tips for black and white photos     Black and white can save a bad picture! If you have a photo that you love, but the light is too weird or it is a bit blurry, try converting it to black and white! Black and white hides so much. It's the white knight that can come in and save your photograph. Again, when you strip the color down, the forms and shapes will pop. This doesn't work all the time, but most times its worth a shot! I loved this little scene with my kids, but the room was really dark, resulting in a slightly blurry photo. I love the way it looks once I converted it to b&w.

Tips For Black And White Photos            Tips for black and white photos       Here is another snap where I wasn't crazy about the light. This was a little ballet recital and the back room where the ballerinas waited had poor lighting. See how their tutus and little arms and legs just make this photo so sweet? The yellow-ish floor was really distracting, but the conversion to black and white helps you focus more on the details and shapes.

Tips for balck and white photos           Tips for black and white photos             Some suggestions for converting photos to black and white:

iPhone: Whatever app you like to use for editing, just change your photo to black and white and then increase the contrast afterward. This can help your photos really pop!

Photoshop: Honestly, I use the A Beautiful Mess Photoshop actions on a daily basis when I edit for clients or when I take pictures for the ABM blog. There are different black and white actions to choose from in each collection. When you purchase an action pack, you also receive instructions to set them up and use them! 

Thanks for letting me share! xo. Janae

P.S. Are you ready to take your photography to the next level? Check out our eCourse, DSLR Basics and Photoshop for Bloggers. Or you can purchase both and get $25 off

Credits// Author and Photography: Janae Hardy. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.