3 Black and White Photography Questions You Were too Afraid to Ask

Aug 05, 2014

Is black and white photography an anachronism, a relic from a previous time? Is it simply an artistic preference or does it offer advantages over color photography in certain situations? No worries. We have all the answers to the black and white photography questions you were too afraid to ask. Let’s get started!

Why would I use black and white photography?

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Black and white photography, also called monochrome, isn’t just artsy for the sake of being artsy. It is an excellent choice if you want to show form, shape, tonal contrast, or the quality of light — all the things that are obscured by the variance of color inherent to color photography.

What subjects lend themselves to monochrome?

Anything may make an interesting black and white picture if the lighting is right and the photographer understands how to use the camera settings. But the subjects that lend themselves best to monochrome include patterns, textures, lines, shapes and moods. For instance, the pattern created by the rolling hills of South Dakota may be obscured by the brilliant color of the hills. By switching to monochrome, you can highlight the shapes of the hills and therefore highlight the pattern. Because we see in color, it can be difficult to find good subjects for black and white photography.Try thinking less about the centers of things, the usual focal points. Look instead for the borders where things meet.

Do I still need to use a filter?

Good digital cameras have monochrome settings, so you can shoot in black and white rather than turning it monochrome after the fact. But you will still need to control the light and the tonality of the image with filters.  Red, green and orange filters are the most commonly used depending on the subject and circumstances.

Looking to Learn the Craft from an Expert?

With more than 40 years of experience Jim and Lori Steinberg of Steinberg Photography can help you understand what filters to use and when.  We travel the globe to take amazing pictures and often take students with us.

If you’re interested in joining us or arranging for a private tutorial, check out our Workshops and Photo Tours page or contact us directly.