Bring your monochrome shots alive by following these rules – and breaking one of them.
Black and white photos aren’t just regular photos devoid of color. They have their own rules and taking them isn’t as easy as it sounds! Don’t pay attention and your images might look as dull and boring as the world on an overcast winter day. To make sure that doesn’t happen to you, we’ve put together this guide to help you take better black and white photos.
Taking great monochrome shots is first and foremost an exercise of the mind and the eye. When you’re going to shoot black and white, you have to actively look and find motifs that work without colors. A good black and white photo isn’t missing anything. It makes up for colors with contrast or depth: The difference between dark and bright parts of an image is much more stark when there are no colors to distract the viewer. Likewise, black and white can bring out a structure and draw attention to patterns in a photo.
This doesn’t mean you have to shoot in black and white. You can just as well shoot in color and desaturate your photos in an image editor or by applying a filter later on. But no matter which ones you use, the important thing is to select subjects that will look good once the color goes away.
Seek out Contrast
When shooting in color, many photographers like to take their pictures in the morning or afternoons when the light is soft and produces pleasing orange or blue tones. But not only does black and white strip away those colors, but monochrome also happens to look particularly great during the unforgiving midday sun.
The harsh light creates dark shadows and illuminates other parts of the picture. Try to take pictures exactly where those two areas meet: Geometric cityscapes, silhouettes against the bright sky, or portraits where some facial features disappear in a sea of shadows.
Look for Patterns
Black and white pairs well with forms and clean lines: The lack of color makes these pictures look very orderly and attractive. Scan your environment for simple shapes and their repetition – like the windows of a building, the pillars of a bridge or the branches of trees growing into the sky.
Focus on Structure
Let’s face it: The term black and white is a bit misleading since you’re really capturing thousands of different shades of grey. That means the eye of the viewer can focus on the textures in a picture and recognize all the depth in them. Capturing structure means that you can point your camera at things that don’t usually produce great results: against the sunlight, on the rainy floor, or through a smudged window.
Surprise Your Audience
Following these rules gives you some basic ideas of the kind of subjects that will look great in monochrome. But remember that the best photos don’t come from just applying rules – but rather from reinterpreting them in a creative way. Once you have sought out patterns, for example, try to break them up by introducing a different shape. After all, a great photo is one that’s full of visual surprises.
If you’re up for a bigger challenge, do the following: Set your camera to black and white and shoot exclusively in that setting for a month. You’ll find that forcing yourself to think about black and white constantly will change the way you look at the world. You stop taking the shots that you would’ve taken with color and start focusing on those that make sense in black and white.
On most digital cameras, you should be able to activate black and white in your settings. If you’re shooting on your phone, you can either set your default camera app to black and white or use one of the many black and white photography apps out there.
Had a go
Have you given black and white photography a go? Comment below and let us know how you got along!
Halloween photography is a collision of everything spooky and fun. Costumes, spectacular lights, people in the streets, candy for breakfast, you know the drill. And while most people consider night photography a challenge, we like to think of it as an opportunity. It’s a chance to play with weird lighting and even weirder subjects. Here are our essential tips for making the most of your Halloween photography.
Knitty gritty camera settings
Turn off the flash. Unless you’re a pro with a fancy external lighting kit, your flash is going to make your photos look washed out, like so many disposable, unflattering, a-little-too-candid party shots of yesteryear. Plus, it’s just boring. All those atmospheric shadows and sunset glows? Flash ruins them faster than a vampire at a blood drive.
Don’t fix the color
Set your white balance to daylight. The white balance on your camera is all about making light sources that aren’t white look as if they were sunlight. Incandescent light is decidedly orange. When you set your camera to incandescent, it’s applying a blue tint to the light to compensate for the orange and correct it back to white. For Halloween Photography, you don’t want to correct the light. This way, you can capture the color of the warm candle, the foggy porchlight, or the green glowstick. It’ll be unlike conventional photos. It’ll be other-worldly. It’ll be perfect.
A narrow aperture (something around f/18) ensures a deep, crisp depth of field for when you want a clear foreground and background. On top of that, narrow apertures also give lights a beautiful sparkle effect.
Make a call, if you have to
Low light usually means long exposures, but with people, especially little kids or tipsy adults, that means you’re going to get some motion blur (unless you have a very cooperative, very still subject). So, much like inviting a banshee to join your bluegrass band, long exposures are probably out of the question. Here’s how to get around that.
If you have multiple lenses, use your fastest lens. By fastest, we mean the one with the biggest aperture. This allows you to have a faster shutter speed—which stops action, prevents camera blur, or motion blur—without jacking up your ISO, which degrades image quality. If you don’t have a fast lens, or your fastest lens isn’t fast enough to stop the scene from getting blurry, you have no choice but to increase your ISO. If your camera has a noise reduction feature, go for it. If your camera has a taste for blood because it’s possessed by an evil spirit, go return it.
Capturing the spookiness
While you’re out and about, you might not even realize that you’re surrounded by amazing alternative lighting sources: jack-o-lanterns, street lights, glow sticks, porch lights, string lights, black lights, and the freakin moon is gonna be nearly full. How often can you pull off a creepy silhouette in green fog? Practically never! Each novelty Halloween decoration presents a creative opportunity that only comes around once a year.
Yes, flashlights. They’re cheap, portable, and will look way more Halloweeny than your camera’s flash. Plus they double as things that help you not fall down! There’s a couple ways to approach this.
Point the light up at your face, obvi. This one’s the classic spooky move, which means you really can’t go wrong. It makes adults look scary and kids look adorbs. Most importantly, it captures the spirit of the night. Or use the flashlight as a spotlight. You’ll have better lighting and more control than you would with your camera’s flash.
Don’t be self-conscious. There’s nothing wrong with crouching on the sidewalk or climbing a tree to get the perfect shot. Begone, ye hesitations! Masterpieces wait for no mortal!
Share with us your spooky shots and comment below!
Take a step outside to explore the endless variety, changing elements and overpowering splendor of the natural world make its native occupants particularly interesting subjects. But there is something about the escapism of nature that keeps us coming back for more. We explore some of the best ways to get the most from taking a step outside and into, nature.
Light Is Everything
As with most forms of photography, there is plenty of groundwork you can do before heading into the great outdoors to maximize your chances of an impactful shot. The most important, perhaps, is to work out when to set off for your location.
If your an early bird or night owl, nature photography is the one for you. In essence, the idea is to arrive at your destination before the sun appears above the horizon. In so doing, you might witness the warm pre-rise glow, before seeing streaks of bright light breaking through the trees. If you are lucky, you might even have some atmospheric mist to play with. Or staying out past your bedtime you can capture the warm colors of dusk and quite often some beautiful shadows.
Finding natural subjects to photograph is a bit of a lottery. By their very nature, animals move wherever they please and plants grow wherever they seed. There is still some room for pre-planning, though.
Nature reserves are an obvious choice, but if you want to get close to nature, your garden or apartment balcony is the best place to start. Putting out bird food near to your windows will give you an intimate view, while insects can be coaxed closer for by a planted wildflower window box. It is worth looking up any nearby animal sanctuaries, too — you can often get really close to once-wild animals that you might never see in their native environment. Likewise, botanical gardens are great places to take close-ups of rare flowers, and your local camera club should be able to point you in the direction of any wildflower meadows in the vicinity.
For more scenic subjects, Google Maps is your friend. Look for high ridges, streams, lakes, and forests. The guidebooks usually do not cover the most interesting places.
Prepare for Anything
If you plan to use a DSLR when out on a nature-based shoot, it makes sense to take a range of lenses — you could be shooting trees with a wide-angle prime, or zooming in to frame a distant bird. But when venturing into sparsely populated areas, it is also important to prepare your personal kit just as well as you pack your photographic equipment.
Mountainous and coastal areas are particularly changeable, so make sure you always have some insulated, waterproof clothing with you. The weather can be very unpredictable…prepare for everything.
Practice and Patience Make Perfect
One final thing to bear in mind is that the unpredictability and diversity of nature photography can make perfection difficult to achieve. People say, practice makes perfect and in photography it is true. You also need patience because you aren’t always going to have the perfect shot all the time. One day, however, that perfect shot will arrive. Just make sure you are out with your camera when it does.