How to See Photos in Black and White

bear, cubsTurning your images into black and white photographs is actually quite simple. Once you develop a few skills you’ll be taking great images which you can then turn into amazing black and white photographs.

See Your Subject

The first thing you need to be able to do well is “see” how the final shot is going to look. You need to understand how the color image will translate onto a black and white image once you take your photograph. You have to keep the tones, textures, and shapes in mind as you take the image to ensure you’re taking the right shot which will turn into a good looking black and white image.

The main image will appear in a different shade of grey than the background so you need to make sure that the tone and texture is going to work once the image is converted to black and white. You need to keep in mind all the colour of the shot when taking the image to ensure that you get the black and white image that you want.

One thing you can do right now is to convert some of your existing images to black and white to get a feel for how the images convert from colour. This will make it easier to judge your shots so they turn out looking great once converted to black and white.

Elements of a Good Black and White Photograph

Contrast Form and Shape

The entire image relies on contrast so you need to focus on subjects that have strong shapes and lines. You need to be careful with areas of light and darkness to ensure that the image turns out right.


Black and white images also include a wide range of grey tones which give the images some subtlety. You want to ensure that your subjects will translate into a good range of tones. There will be a good result if the subject is mostly dark (low-key) or light (high-key).

The Detail and Texture of the Image

Strong textures like clouds, stone, or foliage can help add interest and depth to your shots. Strong side lighting can help being out these textures. Flash or natural light can help you ensure that you get great detail and texture in your images.

Graphic Composition

Focus on strong lines or features in what you’re shooting and use these as the leading lines which will help you create good images when converted to black and white.

Avoiding Bad Subjects

There are some subjects that don’t work well with black and white. Here are some of them to avoid:

Bland Skies – Bright colours, light and detail are important to ensure that you get a good image.

Mood – Some images need colour to maximize the impact of the shot. Sunsets are an example of this as you can’t get the colours that make sunsets pop with black and white images.
Color Contrasts – You may have subjects that need contrasting colors. These don’t work well as black and white shots and should be avoided as they look the same when you convert them.

Graphic Compositions

The use of strong composition and simple shapes ensures you get nice looking black and white images. Man-made structures are ideal for this as well as rocks, trees, and foliage to a lesser extent. Look for plain backgrounds and simple shots. Having the subject at an angle also works well.
It takes some experimentation to take great black and white images, but it can be done. Once you’re able to see the image as black and white, you’ll take better shots which will convert well.

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