Funnily enough, in the age of digital SLRs and highly colored computer graphics, black and white landscape photography seems to be re-emerging as a strong trend.
Many new photographers presume that all they need to do is take the shot in black and white to start with, using the onboard monochrome camera setting. If only black and white landscape photography was that easy.
Like any style of photography, it takes practice. Otherwise, you could end up with a photo that seems flat and lifeless.
Black and white landscape photography
Black and white landscape photography starts before the shot is even taken. Listed below are some quick tips on what to look for to ensure the perfect black and white landscape.
- As with any landscape, foreground detail makes for a good composition. Compose the shot so there is something of interest in the foreground to help set the scene and lead the viewers eye all the way through the image.
- Light is one of the most important aspects of black and white landscapes. You need to ensure there are different area’s of brightness. For example, look for well defined shadows, contrasted with bright highlights (yet not overexposed).
- Clouds are great, but make sure they aren’t covering the sun. After all, sunlight is what makes the different area’s of brightness mentioned above.
- Learn to see landscapes as a series of tones instead of colors. The more you practice black and white photography, the easier this will become. For example, it doesn’t take long to learn that a cloudless blue sky will result in a boring one toned grey area. What is perfect for a colored photograph, can often have a negative impact on a black and white landscape.
Digital SLR Camera settings for black and white photography
- Many professional landscape photographers agree that it’s best to shoot in RAW format. Then convert the image to monochrome with a RAW file editor, before tweaking in a graphics program like Photoshop. Very rarely, do you find a professional photographer who shoots the landscape with monochrome camera settings to start with.
- Underexposing your photographs by 1 or 2 stops will help avoid blowing out highlights.
What filters are good for black and white landscapes?
Using filters for black and white photography will help to separate colors that look similar once changed to monochrome. For example, the colors red and green look very similar in tone, once changed to black and white.
- Graduated filters are useful for keeping detail in the sky and clouds.
- Red filters will darken the sky, creating a moody atmosphere.
- Green colored filters are particularly useful for landscapes, as they create a contrast between different shades of green.
- Blue filters are effective for haze or misty conditions.
Urban black and white photography
Urban street scenes are perfect for black and white photography. Try to choose area’s that offer a good mix of texture, lighting and shadows.
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