My name’s Dan Biggins, and I’m a freelance web developer, a part-time wedding photographer and a keen black and white photographer.
I bought my first camera eight years ago and have been hopelessly addicted to photography ever since.
Please click on the images in the photo gallery above to see them full-size, you won’t be disappointed.
And here are my 11 tips for black and white photography.
1) Shoot in RAW
Photographing in RAW format will ultimately give you so much more control over your black and white photography, and allow you to experiment with various post-processing techniques in Lightroom and / or Photoshop, for example.
2) Shoot in colour, preview in B&W
When shooting in RAW, all your photographs will be in colour but can be easily converted to black and white later via Lightroom, Photoshop or equivalent photo processing software.
However, I always set my camera LCD to monochrome, to give me a good idea as to how the photograph will look once it’s been converted to black and white.
3) Use filters
For long exposure photography, a 10 stop filter is a must. These block out 10 stops of light, forcing the shutter open for much longer to achieve a desirable exposure and to flatter water and soften clouds (as in my Dovercourt Lighthouse photo).
I originally used the B+W 10 stop BD filter until I dropped it on a stony beach (an expensive lesson in clumsiness). I now use a NiSi 10 stop filter, a much cheaper alternative.
Some filters are “warmer” than other, but this isn’t so important when shooting B&W (and the white balance can easily be adjusted after the fact if you’re shooting in RAW).
To balance the sky and foreground, you can also use gradient filters. I use both soft and hard gradient filters depending on the subject I’m photographing. If you don’t have filters, you can always use the gradient filter tool in Lightroom (apologies to purists out there!)
4) Clouds are your friend
Clouds provide interest in a photograph compared to an empty blue sky. Also, long exposures produce soft, streaky clouds.
5) Don’t be afraid of harsh light
Some people avoid venturing out with their camera when the sun is blazing, but sunny weather produces excellent contrast, lines and textures for black and white architectural photography.
Harsh light isn’t so good for portraits unfortunately, whether it’s colour or black and white.
6) Lines, shadows, shapes and texture
Colour can sometimes be a distraction in a photograph, so eliminating it allows you to look for these strong compositional elements. Look for leading lines, shadows, curves, contrast etc.
7) Check the weather / sunset
Always check the forecast if venturing out far and wide – as mentioned above, clouds are recommended for long exposures. Nothing worse than arriving at the coast after a three-hour journey to be greeted with a cloudless sky (I speak from bitter experience.)
I also use LightTrac, an Android app which shows the direction of the sun at different times of the day.
8) Early mornings, late evenings
More relevant to long exposures, as the light is softer at these times of day, allowing you to capture dreamy, ethereal photographs and much longer exposures.
9) Tweak your colours
In Lightroom, even though you’ll be converting your image to black and white you can still fine tune the various tones in your photo. Simply adjust the colour sliders under the B&W panel to adjust your image.
10) Silver Efex Pro
In my opinion, the finest black and white conversion software out there, and allows you far greater control over your image than Lightroom (and is available as a Lightroom / Photoshop plugin too).
11) Have fun!
Photography is all about having fun in a creative way, so when you’re out and about keep warm, dry and most of all enjoy yourself.
How to find out more about the photographer – useful links
B&W website: www.shadowsandlight.photography
All photos taken by Dan Biggins and used with kind permission. All views expressed in this blog post are those of the photographer alone.
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