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5 Black and White Photography Tips

Black-And-White-Photography-TipsContinuing the Black and White Photography theme we’ve been on lately in the latest forum assignment (where the photos featured in this post were submitted) I thought I’d share five pretty random Black and White Photography Tips.

Black and White Photography Tips

1. Shoot in RAW

I know many readers of DPS can’t shoot in RAW (because their camera doesn’t offer it) or don’t shoot in RAW (because they either don’t know how or don’t like to) but for the most control in the post production phase of converting your color images into black and white ones – you’ll want to shoot in RAW if your camera does allow it. Of course shooting in JPEG doesn’t stop you shooting in black and white – but if it’s an option, give RAW a go, you might be surprised by what it offers you in post production. More on RAW vs JPEG here.

Black-And-White-Photography-Tips

2. Shoot in Color

If your camera doesn’t allow you to shoot in RAW (or you choose not to) – shoot in color and do your conversion to black and white later on your computer.

While most digital cameras offer you the option to shoot in Black and White (and can produce some reasonable results) you have more control over your end results if you have the color data to work with in your conversion on your computer. (read more on the choice between shooting in black and white or post production conversion).

Update: There is an exception to shooting in Color and it’s when you’re taking note of point 1 above (shooting in RAW). When shooting in RAW and switching to Black and White mode you see your results in the LCD in black and white but the camera actually records all of the information (including color) – the best of both worlds. But if you’re shooting in JPEG – shoot in color and do the conversion later. Thanks to Joost (in comments) for the reminder to include this.

3. Low ISO

Shoot with the lowest possible ISO possible. While this is something that most of us do in color photography it is particularly important when it comes to black and white where noise created by ISO can become even more obvious. If you’re after this ‘noise’ (or grain) you can always add it later in your post production – but it’s harder to go the other way and take noise out.

Black-White-Digital-1

4. When to Shoot

Many digital photographers actually prefer to shoot images for Black and White in low contrast situations. So an dark or overcast day can be a great time to shoot out door shots.

Ironically these are the days that those who shoot only in color sit at home complaining about the ‘poor light’. So next time you find yourself with a dark and gloomy day – shoot some black and white shots.

5. Composition

Most of the general tips on how to compose or frame a good shot apply just as well to black and white photography as they do when shooting in color – however the main obvious difference is that you’re unable to use color to lead the eye into or around your shot. This means you need to train yourself to look at shapes, tones and textures in your frame as points of interest. Pay particularly attention to shadows and highlights which will become a feature of your shot.

Read more on Black and White Photography at Key Ingredients for Black and White Photography.

UPDATE: Learn more about Black and White Photography with our new Essential Guide to Black and White Photography.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • http://bartlettpairphotography.com/ Philadelphia Wedding Photography

    Very advanced tips…and people think black and white is so easy!

  • http://www.stufflobby.com/ Asif

    I can say that by looking over your website’s posts, remarks that there are many different ideas on the similar topic. To be honest it is refreshing to find fellow opinionated people, it is a good website, i like the simplicity of your content and i appreciate your words, which gave me very useful information.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/aum_kleem/ Aum Kleem

    Lovely article. I tried it to process this bright yellow sunflower in black and white using the tips given…. I used the 100 iso setting, and also chose a cloudy day…

    Wonderful article. I tried this image … a yellow sunflower in black and white…. it seemed to have lovely shades of grey…

  • http://fotograf.gr Michael Persson

    Interesting article, I like the black and white dea lto shoot in RAW b/w to see the shoot in the LCD screen and still have all color information in the RAW file to edit the images at computer, Clever idea ;)

    This is my first view at your website but definitely will come back as i also recently started Photographing again and made my own website about it, fotograf.gr is anyone is interested

  • Meg Ruwe

    I have recently purchased my first SLR. Previously used advanced point and shoot. I have
    been afraid of RAW but after reading these comments I am going to give it a try. Thanks for
    the great information !!

  • jess

    hey all i was wondering if anyone could possibly help me with a little issue im having with up loading my b&w photos to come out in b&w. i apologize if this is the wrong area to post about this so redirection is welcomed. i am fairly new to using my own slr so i need all the help i can get. I went to a concert lately and here is how i shot :
    canon rebel xt 50 mm1.8
    TV and AV
    RAW format
    B&W Parameter

    now i have a macbook pro and when i put in the sd card into the slot and directly upload them onto iphoto, the b&w photos do not come out b&w but a funky color but where the photos show up to upload they are b&w. same goes to for finder. in the sd folder for finder the you can see the picture in b&w but when you click on it the photo opens in preview with some funky colors.

    I did look at one of the pictures under editing on iphoto and it said a saturation of 49 could this be the problem? i have not compared it to another photo not taken in b&w

    i will try and post a photo to further explain if need be

    thank you.

  • jess

    sorry i did not see the previous post on the same issue
    @ gordon buckley (or whoever can help) how can i change the setting on my comp the clicking the grayscale just doesn’t do it

  • nick

    Shoot on analogue. Digital B&W is a poor imitation at best.

    analogue B&w has grain and emotion, digital B&W is just a colour photo with the colour turned off.

    analogue will make u think about each shot properly too

    Kodak Tri -x at 800asa is the best film to use for band photography, always has been

  • CH4R3L

    @nick +1

  • Carson

    Many Professional Photographers will tell you that they find it impossible to tell the difference between a Photo shot in Raw mode and one shot in High Quality Jpg

  • Faron Kee

    I would spend more time learning how to ‘think’ in black and white. All this technical information
    is fine, but it is best try to develop your eye first. I see so many boring, technically good images
    on Flickr. I think my Flickr stream gets so many views because I have learnt to see first.

  • Amos Horner

    Before telling people to shoot in Raw Format for Black and White….talk to someone who is colour blind. Raw just plain flat stinks for those of us who do not see Colours. All the computer processing in the world will not help. Being Colour blind I have found that the lowly Jpg is the best format for capturing what I see.

  • http://braccialiamo.com/orecchini/ Randy

    Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your weblog
    and in accession capital to assert that I acquire in fact
    enjoyed account your blog posts. Anyway I’ll be subscribing to your augment and even I achievement you access consistently rapidly.

  • http://www.fotografiaesencial.com Fotografia Profesional

    Thanks a lot for these tips, I’m starting to like B&W photography, the kind of expression you can get with B&W processing is quite interesting.

  • http://www.vincentweisser.de Vincent

    Take a look at http://minimal-photography. So awesome black and white photography!

  • http://www.marriedtomycamera.com David @ Married to My Camera

    Great article! I would add that black and white digital images almost always need some dodging and burning done to them in a way that images printed in the darkroom in the good old days didn’t aways need. For some reason even the most accurately exposed digital files usually come out of the camera looking rather flat.

  • http://www.kimrixphotography.co.uk/ Kim Rix Photography

    I enjoy creating black & white images. I always shoot RAW, in colour, and convert to black & white in Lightroom. There are so many options and pre-sets to choose from – my favourite is B&W Hollywood. I use this a lot, for bringing out the million dollar ‘celebrity-look’ in my client ;-)

  • http://directory.i5d.net/landing.html Jefferey

    First off I would like to say terrific blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind prior to writing. I’ve
    had a difficult time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts
    out. I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin.
    Any ideas or hints? Appreciate it!

  • Stina

    I just recently played with my black and white effect in post production. I had taken some pic of white flowers,a black dragon fly, and a white peacock. I didn’t like the way they looked in color they looked kind of blah. When i converted them to black and white are so amaizingly beautiful, and they look so much nicer. [eimg url='https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10201221026160727&l=cd2aab38ea' title='photo.php?fbid=10201221026160727&l=cd2aab38ea']
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10201221026880745&l=911f57e735

  • Ashwin Pradhan

    Dear Darren,
    I have been a regular reader of your blog and i must thank you for providing some really cool tips. It has been a source of primary learning for the likes of me who are learning photography. After reading your post on black and white photography i experimented with some of the colour photographs and the results are amazing. Inspired by the quality of images in b&w, i have recently started a blog (www.colourblindz.blogspot.in) to promote this facet of photography. Thanks a ton for the tips and look fwd to more such interesting reads. I have shared one of my pics which i experimented with. Hope u like it.

  • marius2die4

    A good article.Congratulations:

    Some of my B&W picture:

    http://marius-fotografie.blogspot.ro/2013/10/miscare.html

  • charlie

    I have to agree with the other posts – Great Blog! I was an art director and illustrator for many years and shot film back in the old days – you do an excellent job of presenting photo-mechanics and I just got back into shooting. Nothing special, but I am enjoying it again. Bridge camera and three Grandsons – great subject matter….I live in Colorado so scenic stuff is all over. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to teach. You are good at it.

  • Nina

    RAW or JPEG, if you want b+w, shoot in b+w. Converting colour images with classic filtration effects is never as successful as shooting b+w with the appropriate filtration to begin with, or has photography become all about hedging bets and trying to salvage something from disappointing colour images?

  • http://www.hinadtphotography.com Hina David-Tahiri

    I chose to do Photography for my Bursary Art subject during my final year in College many years ago. There was only 3 of us students doing photography and we had to share the one camera which was a film roll and develop our photos in the dark room. As a student, I didn’t have a whole lot of money to purchase countless film rolls and sheets of glossy and matte photo paper, so I learnt the hard way. And that was to get your shot right the first time round. At the time I only developed Black and White photos and grew to love and appreciate it’s beauty. Thank you Darren for your tips and advice, they remind me of my Art Teachers words of guidance in this amazing topic of Photography.
    A photo I took of friends of mine on their wedding day using my Nikon 55-200mm lens, as I was right at the back of the guests.

  • Barry E Warren

    Thanks for the tips, When I’ve shot B&W before I really didn’t use the lowest ISO. That is a tip I learned. I will try the lower ISO settings . I’ve been converting for color photos into B&W but not really satisfied with some of the photos I converted.

  • ghjydrrtaw

    all of you shutup

  • http://www.Marketing4Traffic.com/ Devani Anjali Alderson

    This is so helpful! When I’ve done B&W before it hasn’t looked that great and doesn’t have the “pop” effect that I’ve seen some folks achieve so this is awesome. Thanks!

  • Sofia

    New and awesome B&W Photography Community: http://www.hotshoe.org ! :)

Some older comments

  • Stina

    July 12, 2013 01:21 am

    I just recently played with my black and white effect in post production. I had taken some pic of white flowers,a black dragon fly, and a white peacock. I didn't like the way they looked in color they looked kind of blah. When i converted them to black and white are so amaizingly beautiful, and they look so much nicer. [eimg url='https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10201221026160727&l=cd2aab38ea' title='photo.php?fbid=10201221026160727&l=cd2aab38ea']
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10201221026880745&l=911f57e735

  • Jefferey

    June 26, 2013 02:24 am

    First off I would like to say terrific blog! I had a quick question that I'd like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind prior to writing. I've
    had a difficult time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts
    out. I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin.
    Any ideas or hints? Appreciate it!

  • Kim Rix Photography

    June 25, 2013 06:03 pm

    I enjoy creating black & white images. I always shoot RAW, in colour, and convert to black & white in Lightroom. There are so many options and pre-sets to choose from - my favourite is B&W Hollywood. I use this a lot, for bringing out the million dollar 'celebrity-look' in my client ;-)

  • David @ Married to My Camera

    June 15, 2013 12:03 am

    Great article! I would add that black and white digital images almost always need some dodging and burning done to them in a way that images printed in the darkroom in the good old days didn't aways need. For some reason even the most accurately exposed digital files usually come out of the camera looking rather flat.

  • Vincent

    January 28, 2013 08:28 am

    Take a look at http://minimal-photography. So awesome black and white photography!

  • Fotografia Profesional

    October 24, 2012 07:26 am

    Thanks a lot for these tips, I'm starting to like B&W photography, the kind of expression you can get with B&W processing is quite interesting.

  • Randy

    September 26, 2012 11:37 am

    Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your weblog
    and in accession capital to assert that I acquire in fact
    enjoyed account your blog posts. Anyway I'll be subscribing to your augment and even I achievement you access consistently rapidly.

  • Amos Horner

    August 5, 2012 03:57 am

    Before telling people to shoot in Raw Format for Black and White....talk to someone who is colour blind. Raw just plain flat stinks for those of us who do not see Colours. All the computer processing in the world will not help. Being Colour blind I have found that the lowly Jpg is the best format for capturing what I see.

  • Faron Kee

    May 14, 2012 06:26 am

    I would spend more time learning how to 'think' in black and white. All this technical information
    is fine, but it is best try to develop your eye first. I see so many boring, technically good images
    on Flickr. I think my Flickr stream gets so many views because I have learnt to see first.

  • Carson

    March 24, 2012 02:24 pm

    Many Professional Photographers will tell you that they find it impossible to tell the difference between a Photo shot in Raw mode and one shot in High Quality Jpg

  • CH4R3L

    November 13, 2011 11:11 pm

    @nick +1

  • nick

    October 13, 2011 01:17 am

    Shoot on analogue. Digital B&W is a poor imitation at best.

    analogue B&w has grain and emotion, digital B&W is just a colour photo with the colour turned off.

    analogue will make u think about each shot properly too

    Kodak Tri -x at 800asa is the best film to use for band photography, always has been

  • jess

    October 12, 2011 04:33 pm

    sorry i did not see the previous post on the same issue
    @ gordon buckley (or whoever can help) how can i change the setting on my comp the clicking the grayscale just doesn't do it

  • jess

    October 12, 2011 04:03 pm

    hey all i was wondering if anyone could possibly help me with a little issue im having with up loading my b&w photos to come out in b&w. i apologize if this is the wrong area to post about this so redirection is welcomed. i am fairly new to using my own slr so i need all the help i can get. I went to a concert lately and here is how i shot :
    canon rebel xt 50 mm1.8
    TV and AV
    RAW format
    B&W Parameter

    now i have a macbook pro and when i put in the sd card into the slot and directly upload them onto iphoto, the b&w photos do not come out b&w but a funky color but where the photos show up to upload they are b&w. same goes to for finder. in the sd folder for finder the you can see the picture in b&w but when you click on it the photo opens in preview with some funky colors.

    I did look at one of the pictures under editing on iphoto and it said a saturation of 49 could this be the problem? i have not compared it to another photo not taken in b&w

    i will try and post a photo to further explain if need be

    thank you.

  • Meg Ruwe

    September 17, 2011 09:37 pm

    I have recently purchased my first SLR. Previously used advanced point and shoot. I have
    been afraid of RAW but after reading these comments I am going to give it a try. Thanks for
    the great information !!

  • Michael Persson

    September 3, 2011 10:40 pm

    Interesting article, I like the black and white dea lto shoot in RAW b/w to see the shoot in the LCD screen and still have all color information in the RAW file to edit the images at computer, Clever idea ;)

    This is my first view at your website but definitely will come back as i also recently started Photographing again and made my own website about it, fotograf.gr is anyone is interested

  • Aum Kleem

    August 22, 2011 01:41 pm

    Lovely article. I tried it to process this bright yellow sunflower in black and white using the tips given.... I used the 100 iso setting, and also chose a cloudy day...

    Wonderful article. I tried this image ... a yellow sunflower in black and white.... it seemed to have lovely shades of grey...

  • Asif

    August 20, 2011 12:06 pm

    I can say that by looking over your website's posts, remarks that there are many different ideas on the similar topic. To be honest it is refreshing to find fellow opinionated people, it is a good website, i like the simplicity of your content and i appreciate your words, which gave me very useful information.

  • Philadelphia Wedding Photography

    July 13, 2011 12:35 pm

    Very advanced tips...and people think black and white is so easy!

  • Daniel M Ramirez

    June 17, 2011 10:51 pm

    My favourite photographs are black and white; they are beautiful and look more professional that colour ones; there are many options with monochromatic photographs and they usually achieve powerful results if you know how to exploit it.

  • Serge

    May 23, 2011 06:19 am

    Thank you for the article, some good advices here. I shoot in Raw, sometimes in B&W to see the "rendering" on the back of my camera. When i import in LighRoom, my picture (in Raw) comes in in Colour, so i have the freedom to do my B&W conversion the way i want it. I try to import the cleanest digital(raw file) as possible, even if i add some noise, vignetting later in the process. If you start playi,ng with "grainy" pictures by increasing the ISO, you may end-up loosing precious information on your negative. Raw (pure) is allowing you to do whatever you want, in a reversible way, so why would you damage your negative at the source?

  • Dave

    April 22, 2011 12:56 am

    (Seem) to be having problems posting.) Glad I ran into this...I've read (elsewhere) that shooting raw was a "waste of time" and to shoot color, then convert to B&W to achieve greater tonal range. I'm looking to get that (very) old-school look, and was planning to shoot higher ISO to get the "grain". I get set in my ways at times; looks like I need to open up to other methods instead of being so hard-headed. ;) Thanks for the tips!

  • Joshua Diaz

    February 9, 2011 06:05 am

    I really liked the article of it was very specific. I also learned that it is better to get a black and white. It is also mostly preferred by photographers. Mostly cameras offer J PEG and not raw. My camera does offer it raw and I'm happy for it. I also think that J Peg is better than raw. Black and white is more clear for me. To be great photographer you have to study the science of photography. but raw J PEG gives me curiosity of what colors they are.

  • Bernardette

    February 9, 2011 12:32 am

    What lab does you black&white photos on baratya base paper,classic way?
    In Croatia we produce them from digital files in a classic b&w lab.

  • Evans Photography Shop

    January 27, 2011 03:16 pm

    Great tips! I got a new camera about 6 months ago and have yet to try shooting in raw. I love black & white photography and haven't done much of it lately. Makes me want to get back at it!

  • Peter Haken

    December 19, 2010 05:52 pm

    great tips thanks, I love BW light and contrast are my favourite things, thanks for sharing

  • Peter Haken

    December 14, 2010 06:12 pm

    Thanks for all the tips, I can not wait for the Christmas break so i get some time to focus on RAW.

  • Anna Patrick

    September 21, 2010 06:49 am

    Hard to believe that people are still using the true black&white expression, in an era where the Photoshop has the monopole. Good tips, hope a lot of people get to see and use them!

  • Rob

    August 31, 2010 07:47 pm

    Hello,

    I enjoy black and white a great deal.

    I have RAW ability on my camera. But to be honest, I am not all that good with it. The software that came with the camera is "OK", but I prefer Picasa or the Microsoft program. I understand that the Google program will work with RAW. I really enjoy being able to use filters when processing the image. Picasa has that, and Microsoft has that as well, just more limited.

    I have heard some people say that they have found that images in the camera done in BW are a little sharper, or better with noise. I can not address that, as I have not tested.

    I do have pretty sharp pix though. I have a Leica lens, and I wanted to make sure that I got that for the BW. I wanted to be as sharp as I could get. And at least back in the film days, THAT was the glass to have.

    I am open an any insight that you all can offer to me.

    Take care![eimg url='http://cid-fb37decc636325ec.photos.live.com/self.aspx/Back%20up%20as%20of%20May%2013%202010%20of%20all%20past%20to%20this%20point/Baboo%20-%2002%20-%20Copy.jpg#resId/FB37DECC636325EC!218' title='FB37DECC636325EC!218']

  • Rai

    July 30, 2010 07:48 am

    Hi, I enjoyed reading the articles and wanted to know if I can reference a sentence or two in my book on your exertise in photographing in black and white, in my upcoming book about clouds? You are a pro and I'd like to use youas a reference if I may. I would greatly appreciate it.

    Sincerely,

    Rai Petersen

  • Kamal

    July 20, 2010 01:36 am

    [eimg link='' title='' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com//4431894063_.jpg'] my second post

  • Robyn

    May 20, 2010 11:14 am

    I like to shoot the opposite of this article, I shoot black and white in full sun and color in early morning/late afternoon overcast. I prefer full sun for black and white for the hard shadows and contrasts.

  • Backyard Wrestling DVD

    May 16, 2010 03:02 am

    Hey, numerous for taking the effort to do this. I love your web pages, when it took a slow reader like me some time to look over over full page and all the comments.

  • Denver Photographer Dave Z.

    April 19, 2010 04:24 pm

    Just tonight bought a Rolliflex 2.8E. Can't wait to get it and start shooting with black and white medium format film. Point #5 is a key point to focus on to train my eye to see differently. -Dave Z

  • gordon buckley

    April 17, 2010 06:13 pm

    Sorry, my last was addressed to Sara...........

  • gordon buckley

    April 17, 2010 06:11 pm

    Impo,

    When you take a picture in RAW format and ask the camera to convet it to black and white it will do so just for display purposes on the camera's screen. However, the picture is still in RAW format which is "as seen" and therefore will always be in colour until you change the sttings of the picture using your computer.

    Hope this helps......

  • Mark

    April 16, 2010 11:37 pm

    thanks for the tips in shooting in raw format rather than jpg. i love the tip in ISO, thanks this will help me a lot!

  • sara

    April 16, 2010 04:41 pm

    IMPO QUESTION PLZ ANSWER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    yestrday i started shooting in raw and turned to black and white and i loved it ! bs when i moved my pictures to the laptop it showes colored :( ! whats the problem ? i want to see it on my laptop alsp blackandwhite

    pleaaaaaaaaaaase answer

  • Jess

    April 9, 2010 02:25 am

    I love photography. I'm now trying it in black and white. Wish me luck...'(:

  • nick

    March 16, 2010 02:31 am

    Setting the camera to B&W or converting later is the same thing.

    True B&W is film

    Nothing else has the tonal range or 'look'

    N

  • Kamal

    March 15, 2010 03:37 am

    No Hard & Fast rule can be set for B&w photography. Just enjoy to shoot any thing in B&W. [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/48322426@N05/4430700083/' title='DSCN1834baba maye1' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2764/4430700083_d9ef5f5bcb.jpg']

  • Kamal

    March 15, 2010 03:27 am

    This is not good in changing any thing from its original form. If you want a B&W photo so take it in B&W form rather converting it later. Potraits in B&W says Something which Colour Doesn"t.[eimg link='' title='' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com//4431894063_.jpg']

  • nick

    February 24, 2010 02:42 am

    I can't see, not being technical, what could be gained by making the camera only record in B&W against converting later

    Its an interesting point about previewing in B&W though . Of course the old analogue photographers had only their minds eye to see B&W as they were looking at a colour scene every time

    What is even harder for us today is to re-imagine the classic B&W shots in the colour the photographer was looking at them in

    I find seeing the rare colour footage of the world wars rather unreal! It's as if we can't imagine anything other than lives in B&W!

    n

  • Tom gunn

    February 24, 2010 12:29 am

    I would just like to add one view going in the other direction. I have directly tested the methods of getting B&W using digital, and my tests showed that a better quality image was achieved if taken in B&W on the camera, rather than shooting in colour and converting it afterwards. It's true that this does restrict your later choices, but if you have a "prevision" of what you want to achieve before pressing the shutter (as so many great photographers advise), then this isn't an issue. Nothing is stopping you from taking both.

    I recommend taking both: one B&W "in camera" and one in colour and converted. Compare the 2 and you might be surprised at the difference.

    Cheers, Tom.

  • Jore

    February 23, 2010 04:23 pm

    For color to B/w conversion, try adding a Channel Mixer layer in Photoshop, and then click the "monochrome" tick .. then you will be able to adjust the r g b levels in the image, and achieve much better results..

    And yes, watching the histogram closely is the key to full black, simply clip the unused parts :)

  • Brandon

    February 23, 2010 02:06 pm

    A lot of people seem to have trouble with producing "true black" areas in digital B&W's, and end up with images that appear somewhat washed out and dull. Rather than fumbling around clumsily with "contrast" adjustments, I prefer to instead make precise adjustments to the white and black points, watching the histogram closely, to make sure I only clip the sections I am actually willing to lose.

    Most RAW processing programs offer some kind of "highlight / shadow" alert option which visually indicates the areas that will be true black or true white in the final processed image, given the current settings. Turning this feature on makes it very easy to see at a glance where the extremes are, as you are dragging the black point up (making the image darker by setting a new "darkest" value) or dragging the white point down (making the image brighter by setting a new "brightest" value)

    Finally, I always recommend at least viewing what the image looks like using a LINEAR interpretation of the raw data. Normally there is a curve that is applied to the raw data to give a more perceptually natural look to the image, but when you are working with B&W many times you prefer contrast to perceptual accuracy. So applying a LINEAR "curve" will initially make the image much darker, you'll likely have to pull down the white point significantly, but you might be surprised by the vibrancy you get with this technique. When used with non B&W images, this tends to dramatically increase not just the contrast but also the specific saturation.

    I hope this helps someone.

  • Brandon

    February 23, 2010 01:31 pm

    If you have a Canon point-and-shoot style camera, you really should consider trying this custom firmware upgrade called CHDK, as one of the many awesome features it adds to your camera is the ability to save in raw format. http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK Check the right hand side of the page to see if your camera is listed as compatible, most Powershot's are.

  • Sime

    February 20, 2010 12:09 am

    Andy - I think I will! *goes hunting for a Nikon FM on eBay*

    Sime

  • Andy

    February 19, 2010 09:21 pm

    Hmmmm

    It seems that you are trying to replicate the effect of black and white roll film, but in digital.

    Digital and roll film are different. Neither is superior to the other. They are different. Simple as that.

    Instead of making endless adjustments on a computer, why not purchase a simple 25 year old SLR (very cheap second hand) and bang a few rolls of FP4 through. There are still plenty of mail order labs who process black and white and you will find the whole experience liberating. Granted, it is a little more expensive, but this will serve to make you think about what you are doing and, ultimately you will become a much better photographer.

    I will never forget the thrill of printing my first photographs at the age of 12. Seeing the image appear before your eyes is truly magical. The whole process of roll film photography is tactile and reassuring. The smell of a newly opened roll of film. The slight resistance as you manually wind the film to the next frame. Manually rotating first the aperture ring, then the focus. Then the mechanical clunk of the mirror flipping up, shutter opening and closing - all at the instant you press the shutter and not a few milliseconds after. I could go on, but conclude that by saying that you are left with something tangible, negatives and prints. These will last 100 years plus if correctly stored. Far better than a few electrons on a memory stick which is all that digital will ever be.

    Go on. Join me and give it a try.

  • Gordon

    February 17, 2010 02:55 am

    Thanks, Nick.

    I was referring to digital and I have Photoshop Elements, but I am struggling to get the balck skies I have seen in many B&W shots. Is there a requirement to use a red filter for instance whilst taking the shot?

  • nick

    February 16, 2010 07:07 pm

    Infra red filter on Tri X and hi contrast printing paper!

    :-)

    In digital I expect its done in photoshop like everything else.

  • Gordon

    February 16, 2010 08:12 am

    How are the really black skies in BW photos produced?

  • nick

    February 15, 2010 07:27 pm

    I always use the raw + jpg option,

    Its belt and braces - as we used to say in the movie world, film is the cheapest thing on the set so use as much as you like because coming back later and doing it all again for something missed is not an option

    Memory cards are reasonably cheap and resusable, and hard drive space is getting cheaper all the time. If you have the RAW then you have all the options, so when you get that once in a lifetime image you can make the most of it

  • nathan

    February 13, 2010 08:46 am

    great info! I have been focusing on the technical aspect so long, I forgot the basics are the most important!

  • Cameta Camera

    January 19, 2010 08:11 am

    Shooting in a color is one step that should not be neglected. Shooting in color will give you an opportunity to convert the image or parts of an image to black and white. Leaving a piece in color can be a nice effect.

  • James

    January 6, 2010 05:54 pm

    Excellent Black and white photography tips. thanks for this nice article..

  • Diego

    November 13, 2009 03:28 am

    What I tend to use when I want b&w pictures is to shot in colour and use gimp to split the RGB channels. I don't know why but I mostly keep the red one. That as a first try, before trying grayscale conversion.
    On some b&w shots I've found interesting the effect of adding some brightness and to put the "constrast" a few steps (bigger value) after the brightness.

    Give it a try.

  • Phototips

    October 15, 2009 05:46 am

    Great black and white photography tips! Thanks for the article.

  • Rori

    September 23, 2009 02:03 am

    hey! these are really great i enjoyed reading bout them and as well looking at them . hope to see some more in the future ! =-) Rori .

  • Prophoto

    September 19, 2009 11:52 pm

    As a working professional I tend to shoot each image in both RAW and fine Jpeg, Pro Cameras give the option to shoot each image in both. I run 16GB cards which allow me to fit around 400-500 images this usaually is fine during a wedding shoot. I mostly use the Jpeg images in post processing if they are correctly exposed these will usually be fine and much easier to work with rather than the larger Nikon nef or RAW image files, but as a fallback I have the RAW file if in case of difficult lighting - over or under exposure.
    I find this works best for me most of the images on my website if not all are taken in JPEG.
    Prophoto home page

  • pompy

    August 21, 2009 12:34 pm

    Great article and tips, thanks! :)

  • farhad

    June 29, 2009 11:34 pm

    I HAVE A LONG EXPERIENCE IN BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY EVEN IN MAKING HIGH CONTRAST DEVELOPERS MYSELF.SINCE DIGITAL, I COULD NOT REACH A PHOTOGRAPH WITH HIGH BLACK DENSITY.ONCE I HAVE BEEN TOLD TO TAKE PHOYO IN COLOR THEN ON PHOTOSOP MAKE IT BLACK&WHITE. STILL I HAVE SAME PROBLEM.
    COULD YOU HELP?
    RAGARDS
    FARHAD

  • Marcus

    June 25, 2009 03:38 am

    USA 2009 B&W http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcusrevertegat/sets/72157619390872360/show/

  • Vancouver photographer

    May 19, 2009 07:03 pm

    While I agree with most of these tips, I have to disagree with shooting with low ISO. High ISO may add some grain, but it makes the image feel more like film. Also, low ISO is impractical, especially for street photography and event photography (such as weddings).

  • lukix

    May 9, 2009 02:10 am

    I use JPG+RAW mode. I think that is a great option.

  • Rachel

    April 6, 2009 03:17 am

    thanks for the b&w tips! i'm a beginner at all this stuff, so what does RAW and ISO stand for? :)

  • George

    March 25, 2009 09:52 am

    Haha ^^ nice, is there a section to follow the RSS feed

  • Tony Oquias

    February 3, 2009 06:38 pm

    Nice to know there are still many people who love shooting black and white. Learned also a new thing today because of Joost van der Borg's comment/tip to shoot in raw and black and white. Didn't know one could do that. I always shoot in raw and color and process the images in Photoshop. Would definitely try it. Thanks!

  • Soumen Sanyal

    January 30, 2009 12:36 pm

    Very informative as an instructional post. Would like to receive more of such articles regularly

  • Philip G Daikens

    January 30, 2009 12:04 pm

    Great tips! I don't often shoot in B&W but do like the effects. RAW is a different world compared to JPG but not much more complicated if you use the camera software to start. The quality is worth the small learning curve to shoot in RAW. DSLRs make it so much easier to play with and learn the different effects filters can create and other available in camera setting too. Thanks for the great refresher on B&W, I know what I'm doing this weekend.

  • Kim

    January 30, 2009 11:30 am

    Ian sounds angry. Just a thought.

  • Abal Fasht

    January 17, 2009 03:43 pm

    I can't remember when the last time I photographed by BAW photos, I have afew of my friends BAW photos and will make it a collection.

    Thanks for your great article and excellent advice.

    Bye

  • pixima

    January 15, 2009 09:19 pm

    use yellow filter for outdoor b&w pictures and see the differances of cloud, sky and shadows.

  • Leap Year Photography

    December 30, 2008 04:51 am

    Another set of great tips by DPS. We do wedding photography and I find the black and white can really distinguish photos in a way no other effects can.

  • Rolleiflex_David

    December 25, 2008 02:40 am

    Ian,thanks for your comments. I must admit, I am from a scientific imaging background. We used 12=bit and 16-bit monochrome camera usually cooled to -30 to -80 degrees C. Try grey scale readings were acqurate to usually +/- 2. Such a pixel might read 54,927 +/- 2 grey scale levels. These images were always saved in uncompressed TIFF Formate, so no brightness data was lost. When you have 4096 or 65,536 grey levels, you have a lot of wiggle room to make an asthetically pleasing or illustritive image in Photoshop. Is is easy to rescale these images in Photoshop rescale command.

    Second point: It is really easy to segment purple and pink (H&E stained slide) images by looking at the red or blue image. The monochrome images was just a mush of grey. It really helped to increase comtrast.

    The low ISO tip was a litle in jest. If the F-64 club still existed (Adams, Westen, et. al., I would be a member. I almost got a devorce over taking very high res pictures of dead trees with my Rolleiflex with ISO 100 film.

    Thanks for your comments,
    Rolleiflex_David

  • Ian

    December 25, 2008 12:24 am

    What rubbish, firstly shooting in RAW is only of use if you want to fiddle around alot in Photoshop or you dont have the skills to capture the image you want at the time.

    Taking Photos in colour and conversting, pointless, just choose the shots you want in black and white have a reason and a purpose...

    Using a low ISO, this is not a tip, simply use the ISO that is relevant for the situation whether you want a grainy image for effect or if you are in a low light situation adjust the ISO to suit.

  • Rebecca

    December 20, 2008 01:12 am

    Great photos. I do like black and white photos. Perhaps when I go back to OH for the holiday, I'll take a few photos with my niece's camera and see how they turn out.

  • Rolleiflex_David

    December 14, 2008 08:22 pm

    The difference between RAW (or TIFF or jpg2000) and jpg is that RAW saves all of the data. jpg compresses and discards some data. There are a number of ways to obtain grey scale images from color. Any good software will have an RGB and an HSI choice for adjusting your color image. Play around with the monochrome red, green, blue and intensity images. They will all be different. It's cheap - just a few electrons. For example, a blue object in a monochrome red image will be very dark. Usually, the green or intensity image give the best results. After all, half of the pixels in your digital camera are green (as is most of the world). Now when I want really great B&W images I reach for my totally manual 1946 TLR Rolleiflex and some nice slow film.

  • PatB-Photography

    November 2, 2008 09:14 am

    Great article and excellent advice to always capture images in the best possible quality possible.

  • PhotographybyGray

    September 25, 2008 09:04 pm

    Maybe I should start shooting b/w pics in raw. I didn't realize it made that much of a difference.

  • Rob

    July 13, 2008 02:30 pm

    I love Black and white for very soft images, add some grain in photoshop and it can save a blurry images.

  • PhotoHand

    July 1, 2008 02:08 pm

    Definately shoot in color! Then there are so many ways you can re-work it in b/w.

  • kay noah

    June 4, 2008 07:28 am

    Hi - i enjoy reading your stuff. I'm confused tho. I thought greyscale was different than b/w. Also, does taking the original photo in colour allow more room for channel mixing? Are there any simple guides to channel mixing for the newbie?
    Also, what is the difference between filters and channels? Are there filters on cameras? or do you have to use filters in photoshop?
    thanks..kayindenver

  • keith steadman

    June 3, 2008 09:44 am

    Dear everyone

    I apologise for my ridiculous and rude comments. They were totally out of order and unfair, and now I wish they could be deleted.
    It seems I'm the one with the problem.
    Once again, please accept my sincere apologies, and good luck with all of your forthcoming photographic endevours.

    Keith Steadman

  • Darren

    June 1, 2008 07:55 pm

    Keith - we welcome diversity of opinion here at DPS however I would ask you two things:

    1. please keep your language at a level that is appropriate. This site is read by people young and old and from a variety of backgrounds and I'd appreciate you keeping things civil and respectful. Yes - do express your opinion but please do it in a way that isn't aggressive - you'll have a lot better chance of convincing others if you do.

    2. I'd ask you to say something constructive. Again - do feel free to express your opinion but I look at your comments and wonder what you're trying to say? ie - how would you improve this post? what advice would you add?

  • Keith Steadman

    June 1, 2008 02:42 pm

    No doubt my previous comment will be ommited, only because you pompous fools with your asses up you own backsides are afraid.

    Which one of you mutts has got the guts to admit to what a stinking lowlife racket you are in.

    I like photography, but I hate bullxxxxxxrs who tell the public what is good/right and not/wrong.

    Get a sense of reality, and remember that every penny you spend is probably stolen in some way or another--think about it big shots.

    Keith Steadman

    this comment was edited for language

  • Keith Steadman

    June 1, 2008 02:37 pm

    Dear everyone

    I have to say quite simply that the subject matter overides the technical jargon anyday.
    You always have the most boring photos that are "technically correct"--in your limited opinion, and then you have the photographs that people want to return to and enjoy again and again--the ones that aren't quite so technical in your not quite, yet self imposed expertise opinion.

    The public laugh at you, and realise now that in these days you shall not pull the wool over the more intelligent and brighter eyes among us.

    Keith Steadman from England--print this damn thing if you have the gutzo to do so.

  • Kennyb

    May 17, 2008 11:30 am

    I own a 30d for quick stuff, but shoot almost everything with my 35mm, 6X7, 4X5, or 8X10, in that order, depending on how much time I have.

    I especially love the medium format, and have fallen hard for the FP4 and PanF films.

    I've tried to duplicate the tonality, etc with the 30d, and have had some success, but overall, I still prefer film.

    I'm very good with Photoshop, for manipulating others images, and assume that at some point I will have to make the investment of time to become proficient in getting exactly what I was shooting for.

  • Deeana

    May 14, 2008 12:19 am

    Photography is the best when it has a storytelling.

  • Furious Photographers

    May 7, 2008 09:47 am

    I think that shooting in low ISO is not that important when photographing in black and white because I normally add grain to my pictures anyway to give it that "feel." As an Orange County Wedding Photographer, I use that style frequently in a lot of my pictures!

    However, I agree with your other suggestions. :-)

  • Free Eye

    February 20, 2008 01:56 pm

    Agree RAW is better, but as mentioned takes more time on the computer. Interesting comments. Grayscale is not suitable for making great B&W prints. I use Paint Shop Pro 9 and use Layers/New Adustment/Channel Mixer.

  • Martin Elkort

    January 11, 2008 10:37 am

    Great tips! Thanks for taking the time to point these out.

  • Black and White

    January 5, 2008 07:50 am

    Good article!
    shoot images for Black and White in low contrast situations... good point.

  • Marc

    December 13, 2007 03:15 am

    It's worth remembering that these are just tips and not hard and fast rules that must be obeyed. I think they're designed to help people progress from only going out on sunny days with the camera set to B&W mode, and are good points that anyone starting out in B&W digital photography can benefit from as they're not obvious to start with.
    The rule of thirds is also a guidline and is based on the 'golden mean' which is a ratio humans seem to find naturally pleasing, but i've seen fantastic photos where the focal point is bang in the middle of the photo.

    As for the 'glow', that's something we all strive to acheive and only comes when all elements of photography, from the photographer to the paper used to print, are working well and in harmony with one another. There's no easy route to acheiving this, just keep improving and progressing and one day you may well get there. I haven't yet, but i'm trying!

  • Rachel

    November 28, 2007 01:22 pm

    I have to say i don't agree with the above fact that color shots should be shot on sunny days and black and white on overcast days. I believe the quality of light in black and white is highly stylistic and aesthetic. Some people like that 'glow' in black in white which is often achieved on bright sunny days. Others like even tones of white, grey and black in their black and white photographs in which overcast days are suitable. Also i find that colors tend to become washed out by the harsh light on sunny days where as on a grey day colors seem to pop. Does anyone agree?

  • Janey

    September 26, 2007 12:20 pm

    In response to Jodz:
    I've heard that it is always important to use the rule of thirds, which is where you would divide the photograph into hree sections vertically and three sections horizontally. Where the lines match up in the corners is where at either of the four points the focal point of the picture should be.

  • Jodz

    September 12, 2007 03:18 am

    I'm new to B/W and I'm trying to figure out exactly what makes a great black and white photo. It's the old 'I know one when I see one' but I'm trying to figure out exactly what it is that makes some B/W's so incredible. Some older photos using the film process and dark room technology seem to 'glow' somehow. Is this possible using digital cameras? If anybody has any ideas, I'd love to hear 'em.

  • Mbong

    September 4, 2007 06:28 am

    great tips.

    i always shooting in RAW [EOS 20D].

    using EOS DSLR, i have no problem with ISO, sometimes i need to set ISO up to 800 and still get great results, and process the file with C-1-pro RAW converter, it works great for me.

    cheers.

  • Huey

    August 7, 2007 10:45 am

    For most of the photography I do, I prefer to shoot RAW..Not because I need it for the immediate need, but just knowing I have the best file format in the can is comforting. As noted by other posters, the large file sizes do take additional RAM. I have to believe that a new file format is in the works that utilizes the best of both world.

  • Cheryl

    August 6, 2007 05:27 am

    i'm confused.. what is shooting in the raw?
    I"m new at digital and have a cannon rebel with
    LOTS to learn

  • Iskandar

    May 18, 2007 01:28 am

    I shoot RAW, then convert it BW using Google Picasa.

  • Vince

    April 20, 2007 11:18 pm

    I shot in Raw for the first time last week.
    The files are huge,there's not a huge difference in the end result,and when you bring them up on the windows picture viewer, they are tiny.
    Jpegs are really not bad.

  • nomadicalloy

    March 18, 2007 12:44 pm

    good article

  • John

    March 10, 2007 11:36 am

    Yeah I second what Aaron about Photoshop-->Greyscale. Well maybe I just need to be taking photos that are more black and white friendly but it tends to look terrible. Someone told me that in CS3 there are some better B&W tools, but I don't know if this is true or not. Anyone confirm this?

    ---
    John
    http://www.monomachines.com

  • Joost

    March 10, 2007 10:36 am

    Great tips, I wish you had mentioned more on aperture because I'm clueless on how to get great shots like that.

  • Aaron

    March 10, 2007 06:55 am

    ? What was wrong with my tip? It's certainly much better than changing modes. jeez

  • Aaron

    March 10, 2007 06:02 am

    A point should be made that if you shoot in color and then convert to BW (in Photoshop), don't use Image > Mode > Grayscale, or worse, Hue/Saturation. Use Image > Calculations and play around with the channels and settings. You'll get a much more dramatic effect.

  • Motorcycle Guy

    March 10, 2007 05:34 am

    I've always seem importing raws as way more of a headache, maybe I should re-examine the way I do it with my digital rebel xt.

  • Tobe

    March 6, 2007 02:33 am

    I am as Raw as they come. No photo skills or experience. However I do have some ideas for b&w cowboy shots. I'm just learning and hope to progress. If you have any basic staring point please share. Thanks

  • Jake

    February 23, 2007 10:17 am

    With lower-end point & shoot cameras, B&W or sepia mode can often capture a more pleasing range of tones and especially ambient light than color mode does.

  • Ettienne

    February 22, 2007 01:02 pm

    I agree you can save alot of photos when there converted to B&W, but also your printing equitment is very important. I use www.expressphoto.com.au , they produce good prints & there reasonable in there pricing.

  • syahid ali

    February 21, 2007 05:57 pm

    love the black and white pictures. pity that i can't shoot in raw. the others, i think i can practise it using my point and shoot cam.

  • Jeremy

    February 21, 2007 03:02 pm

    Another "amen" for the tip to shoot in color (or at least in RAW so you have the color data available) even when your final intent is b&w. You never know when you may look at a photo later and decide that the color version is actually better for the final piece. I shot a photo in a "chair" situation like the veteran above, and when I looked at it later in post-production the sea of chairs (blue in this case) was so stunning it made the photo fantastic.

  • Valette

    February 21, 2007 12:19 pm

    I don't know how many poorly-lit color photos I've "saved" by converting to B/W.

  • Andrew

    February 21, 2007 08:28 am

    Thanks for the article. I've always tried to shoot in color and convert to black and white later. However, a while ago I was shooting in low light conditions and the color shots were not coming out very sharp. In my camera, I changed to shooting in black and white and the shots came out much sharper. Is there any advantage to shooting in black and white in terms of the ability to shoot in low light conditions? Is there something else that explains the differences in sharpness that I observed?

  • Fredrik Ohlin

    February 21, 2007 07:59 am

    In my experience, noise is more of a problem when shooting in color, especially in low light situations. I often find myself converting high ISO images to B&W and greatly reducing the perceived noise level. Now I don't know if I'm particularly sensitive to luminance noise, or if my camera (my trusted Canon 10D) is particularly good at producing it, but I'd say noise is generally more pleasant in black and white.

  • Brian Auer

    February 21, 2007 07:23 am

    Good points. The "shoot in color" tip is key, but the "low ISO" is also very important. Post processing into black and white can really bring out the noise, especially when you're pulling out more of the red or blue tones rather than greens.

  • Raquel Paladino

    February 21, 2007 07:08 am

    Great article!
    Some good pointers for shooting in RAW. It's important to experiment and expand your skills with photography.
    Thanks.

  • Joost van der Borg

    February 21, 2007 05:54 am

    A tip when shooting raw: Do shoot in black and white. This way you can check the results in black and white on your LCD, and back at your computer you've still got all colour information in the raw file. (Check before going out all day though)

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