Step 1 – Why Use Black and White?
I’ve heard some traditionalists say that a shot should be black and white unless the photographer feels it benefits from colour. This notion doesn’t rule out colour shots, it’s merely saying that a photo’s default state should be black and white. For the older generations this was an inescapable inevitability as colour wasn’t an option.
You may or may not agree with this notion, but what it implies for me is that I should take strong consideration over each of my shots, and decide whether it benefits from colour or whether it is best suited for black and white.
Step 2 – RAW, ISO and Shot Settings
From a purely practical sense, there are a few settings rules that will help you in your quest for great black and white shots. Don’t make the mistake of shooting in black and white, you may feel it helps on location as you can see the results in your LCD. But if you shoot in black and white you don’t have the option to convert to colour, where as if you shoot in colour, you can keep it as colour or convert it to black and white.
With this in mind, if you have the option, shoot in RAW. This will give you far more editing capabilities when it comes to converting your shots to black and white. Also, keep an eye on your ISO. As always, it is best to keep it as low as possible to avoid excessive noise, which is sometimes more of an issue when using black and white.
Step 3 – Seeing in Black and White
Now it’s time to start thinking in black and white. Obviously we see the world in glorious colour, but in order to get great black and white shots we need to approach our photography with black and white in mind. This isn’t to say that colours should be disregarded.
It’s important to think in tones (how light or dark an object is), as different colours produce different tones, for example, in colour, a red flower with green grass below it may look stunning, but in black and white, the tones may be very similar and the photo may look quite flat. We’ll talk more about contrast later, but be sure to consider the tones of your black and white shots, a greater contrast of tones will make for a more engaging shot.
Step 4 – Light (and Shadow)
Light is the main element of photography, so it is essential that we utilise it effectively and to our best advantage. Without the distraction of colour, light and shadow play a pivotal role in black and white photography, drawing the eye to highlighted parts of the shot whilst other parts are left in the shade.
When using natural light, it’s important to establish the quality of light that you desire before you head out for your shoot. If you want a soft and sombre light, it’s best to head out in the early morning or late evening when the sun is low, but if you want bright light, dark shadows and a more contrasty shot, then head out in the middle of the day when the sun is high in the sky and offering strong light.
Step 5 – Contrast
I’ve mentioned contrast already, but in the absence of colour, it’s important to ensure that your black and white shots have a variety of tones and strong contrasts in order to maintain interest throughout the shot. It is important to try to avoid overwhelming you shots with gray. Instead use the light to ensure you have some brighter white elements to draw in the eye and some parts of the shot with darker shaded areas to ensure good contrast.
Strong contrast is easy to obtain on bright sunny days, but be careful not to over exposure your shots with too much light. Maybe knock it down a stop or two to make sure you’re not letting too much light in.
Step 6 – Detail and Texture
Often the eye is drawn to the variety and shades of colour within a shot and attention is withdrawn from the actual detail within a shot. Try using black and white when shooting subjects with particularly interesting detail or texture. The lack of colour will really highlight the subject matter and enhance the shot.
Aim to fill the frame with the detail and don’t get distracted by the real life colour, as I mentioned earlier, think in black and white, consider the tones and contrast and try to enhance the subtleties in the frame.
Step 7 – Portraits
I’m sure you have seen many iconic black and white portraits before. A portraiture technique that seems to have lasted the mainstreams inclination to use mainly colour, black and white portraits maintain a more timeless quality. These portraits are used to tell the story of the person in one shot, capturing the details of the face and the expression of the subject.
They utilise light, shadow and contrast effectively. Try finding a willing subject to practise on, find a well lit location and see if you can create your own timeless black and white portrait.
Step 8 – Landscapes
Landscape shots rely on strong composition, often with foreground interest, and this isn’t any different when shooting black and white. Without the distraction of colour, the lines within the shot will be highlighted. The gradients and differences in tone will become more apparent and the shapes will be more prominent.
Try taking advantage of gloomy storm clouds, which often come out very well in black and white. You can also experiment with urban landscape and architecture shots, which will again highlight strong form and shape.
Step 9 – Shape and Silhouettes
Within all the previous contexts that I’ve mentioned, portraits, landscapes, detail shots, etc, there are many important elements to remember, such as tone, contrast, light and shadow. There are also a couple of popular choices for subject matter that it’s important to keep an eye out for.
Distinctive shapes, horizontal lines, vertical lines and leading lines will all make for interesting compositional shots. Remember to utilise the option of creating silhouettes, especially when there is particularly strong light. As you practice using black and white, you’ll become more tuned in to what subject matter works well and what doesn’t.
Step 10 – Experiment & Get Creative
So now it’s time to get out there and give black and white photography a go for yourself. As you’ve read, there aren’t any restrictions on subject matter, so you can head out and try shooting all your favourite subjects in black and white and see the difference it makes to your work.
Try editing a few of your colour shots to black and white, firstly, to give yourself some understanding of the editing process. This will allow you to see how it can benefit or change a shot. You may be surprised at how a few simple clicks can transform your images.
Share your favorite black and white image with us by posting a link in the comments. And please post any images you’ve made in black and white!
Information from Simon Bray
Photo by Ekaterina Utimisova
Travel photography seems so simple. What could be easier than traveling to an exotic location in a beautiful country with a camera and a handful of memory cards and taking some amazing photos? But, when you arrive at your location, you find that it’s a lot harder to take a decent travel photo than it looks. In this tutorial I’ll be sharing seven key tips for taking professional-looking travel photos you will appreciate for years to come.
1. Take Better Travel Photos
If you follow these few simple principles your travel photography will improve dramatically. A good approach is to set aside some time specifically for photography, especially if you are with friends or a partner who doesn’t share your interest. Wander off by yourself for a while and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of your holiday destination.
Research will help you make the most of your photographic opportunities, and the internet is a great place to start. Look for well-known photographers who have been to your location. Their work will be an inspiration to you and a guide to the best places to take photos. Take advantage of their hard work to plan your photography.
It’s also important to research local laws and culture. For instance, it’s illegal to photograph airfields in some countries. Some UK plane spotters were arrested in Greece for just this a few years ago and spent some time in jail before being released. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you.
On a cultural level, there are countries where people don’t like to be photographed (like Bolivia) and others where they love it (like India). Knowing what to expect will help you deal with the local people.
Please also be aware of your personal safety, especially when carrying around camera equipment, as some places are not as secure as others. Again, research will let you know what to expect.
2. Use bright colors
Use color to create bold, dramatic compositions. The key is to simplify. Close in and concentrate on just one or two colors. A photo dominated by a strong primary color like red or blue can be very powerful. Don’t just stick to the primary colors as compositions of subtler hues like pinks and greens can also be very strong.
Colour can evoke powerful emotions. Red is a warm, dominating colour. It’s the colour of heat and strong sunlight. It can also signal danger or anger as red is the colour of blood. Red is a powerful colour, and also the colour that the human eye is most sensitive to.
Blue, on the other hand, is a cool, calming colour. Imagine the blue shades of a tropical sky above tropical waters. Or the blue of icebergs and glaciers, or the night sky.
Green can be fresh and invigorating; think of spring or lush rainforests. It’s the color of nature, growth and fertility.
3. Use late afternoon light
The word photography comes from the Greek for ‘painting with light’ and this should tell you that quality of light is one of the most important aspects of photography. The pros wait for the best light and so should you if you want to get some good photos.
The light in the middle of a sunny day is harsh and ugly. Avoid it at all costs.
For most subjects, the light is best when the sun is low in the sky. This means for the first hour or so after it rises and the last hour or so before it sets. The further from the equator you are, the longer this ‘golden period’ of light will last. If you’re in the tropics, get ready to act fast, because the sun sets quickly and the good light won’t last for long.
This is where planning will help. Be observant as you’re exploring your destination, and think about how these places will look when the sun is close to the horizon. Then you can make sure that you’re on location in the most photogenic spots when the light is at it’s best.
This is a great strategy for taking good photos if you’re short on time. Spend the middle of the day with your family or friends, and head off for an hour or two before sunset for some quality photography time.
Rain and storms, especially at sunset, can create interesting, unrepeatable lighting conditions. If you see that something exciting is going to happen with the light, get out there with your camera and take advantage.
Sometimes the light and weather won’t do what you would like it to, especially if your time is limited. Learn to take photos in cloudy, overcast conditions. These can be great for nature photography (especially flowers), portraiture and black and white photography.
4. Look for a different take on local landmarks
We’ve all seen hordes of tourists standing in the same place taking photos of a well known landmark, normally in the middle of the day (which we already know is the worst time possible!) You can do this too – if you want a boring photo that’s no different from anyone else’s. If you want something better, you’re going to have to be a little smarter, and start developing your creative eye.
How many ways is it possible to take a photo of the Eiffel Tower? At first glance, it seems that not many. Try searching Flickr for photos of the Eiffel Tower to see how many variations photographers have come up with of this famous landmark.
Taking a photo that is somehow new and different of a famous and much photographed location is one of the most difficult photographic challenges that there is. Start by making sure that you’re there when the light is good. If you have wide angle or telephoto lenses, try using their unique perspectives to create something a little different. Try including some human interest. Not tourists, but local people doing whatever the local people do. Try something completely unexpected – like taking photos in the rain – and see what happens. Experiment. Have fun.
5. Search for detail
Be observant. Look for the little details that capture the spirit of the place that you’re in. Maybe it’s the way the light plays across cobbled streets. Or handicrafts that the locals sell in the markets. Maybe it’s food presentation in a restaurant, or an architectural feature. It doesn’t have to be very exciting. It can be personal or obscure. It’s your own little memory of a detail that evokes the spirit of a place.
6. Get off the beaten track
The popular places are easy. Anyone can go there, and just about everybody will. Do something different. Explore nearby places. Don’t just stick to the well-trodden tourist path. See what’s out there. Search out unusual and little known places. Try and find somewhere where the locals aren’t used to seeing tourists. Not only will your photography improve, but you’ll learn something new about the world and become a better person for it.
7. Use a polarizing filter
Have you ever wondered how the pros capture deep blue skies? Or how they manage to get water so clear that you can see all the way to the bottom? Or why the colors in their photos are so strong? The answer lies in a magical piece of glass called a polarizing filter. This is the one filter that will improve your photography more than any other.Polarizing filters work by eliminating reflections. Light reflects from dust and other particles suspended in the air, and these reflections desaturate the color of the sky on a sunny day. Put a polarizing filter on the front of your lens and the reflections will be cut out, leaving a deep blue sky.It’s the same with water. Light bounces off the surface and obscures what’s underneath. Use a polarizer to eliminate the reflections and you can see straight underneath. If you’ve ever seen a photo of a boat floating on water that’s so clear it appears the boat is floating in thin air, that’s how it was done.
Polarizing filters also increase color saturation by eliminating reflections from painted and other non-metallic surfaces, including flowers and leaves.
There are a couple of rules to observe when using a polarizing filter. The polarising filter works best at an angle of 90 degrees from the sun. You also need to turn it while it’s on the front of the lens (it has a rotating mount) to see where the effect is strongest.
The only downside to polarizing filters is that you lose approximately two stops of light. If light levels are low this may lead to camera shake. Use a tripod or other support to avoid this.
8. Take photos at night
Learn how to take photos at night. Night photos can be really evocative. The best photos are taken while there’s still some light in the sky. There’s something magical about the early evening. City lights sparkle. The movement of water becomes a misty blur. Passing cars leave trails of light.You’ll need a tripod to support the camera and a cable release to fire the shutter without touching the camera. If you haven’t done this before it’s worth practicing this at home so that you can perfect the technique before you’re on location.
Information from Andrew S Gibson Blog : Writer & Fine Art Photographer
Photo from Ekaterina Utimisova
It’s important that you don’t rule out any options when it comes to finding a great angle for your shot, so don’t be afraid of getting down on the ground or standing on top of a desk. Don’t be scared to stick out. You never know, you may be very pleasantly surprised at the aspect on the world that these perspectives gives you.
Any movement that gives you a different impression of your surroundings will inspire creativity and aid you in finding interesting angles.
This can often be harder than it sounds, but if you can achieve a vantage point to look down upon your subject matter, then the results can be extremely rewarding. Try and find a high vantage point that will enable you a good view of the world below and be sure to have your camera strap around your neck so there’s no risk of loosing your camera!
Shooting from above also has the distinct advantage of cleaning up your background. Instead of overexposed skies or ugly overhead lighting, you fill your shot with clean glass or other environmental factors that can add to your shot.
On the extreme side of things, if you’re ever lucky enough to travel by helicopter or hot air balloon, be sure to take your camera with you as you’ll have a great chance to try out some aerial photography.
Photo by Ekaterina Utimisova
A lot of the compositional work within photography is not only to do with where you’re pointing the camera, but also, where you are shooting from. It is essential that you don’t get rooted to one spot and hope that you’ll find a good angle from a sole vantage point.
Be sure to get on your feet and move around, get up close, move around the subject and explore with your camera. Moving around is also important when considering perspective, are you looking to accentuate the size of your subject, if so, move closer or further away accordingly.
Photo by Ekaterina Utimisova
Think about how to maximize the impact of the shot, taking into consideration the vital elements that need to be included. For example, if working on a fashion shoot, consider whether you need to include the entirety of the model, or whether there are more creative options in finding an angle that draws attention to a particular item of interest.
Working with angles centers around the compositional element of your shot, so as you explore the variety of options you need to consider certain compositional aspects, just as you would with any of your photography. Is there any dead space in your shot? Are you utilizing the space within the frame well, or are there areas of the shot that aren’t attracting any visual attention?
What is the focal point of your shot and can you see it in enough detail? What do you want to lead the viewers attention towards? Have you considered filling the frame with your chosen subject, but from an angle that the viewer might not expect?
Photo by Ekaterina Utimisova.
To begin with, it’s important to be open minded when approaching a shoot. It is extremely easy to fall into the trap of photographing subject matter in a way you’ve seen it photographed before.
When starting out, there is no harm in exploiting angles used by others to set the standard. But in order to express yourself as an artistic photographer, it is essential that you approach your subject with a fresh perspective on the location, objects, people and environment that you photograph. Remove from your mind the conventional way to shoot the scene before you and begin considering the vast variety of options before you.
Getting down low is one of the easiest ways to alter your photographic perspective and can be utilized effectively in a whole range of contexts. When shooting landscapes, it can be extremely beneficial to get down low in order to include some foreground interest and add a sense of depth to the image.
It’s also really useful when photographing kids and pets to get down to their level and take shots from a similar perspective as them. Using a wide angle lens will be very helpful when getting down low and it can also sometimes be difficult to look through the viewfinder (unless you have a flip out screen), so you may have to resort to a bit of trial and error to get your shot just right.
Photo by Ekaterina Utimisova
Spring photography offers a chance to capture the changing of the seasons, where the crisp and cold winter gives way to a warm, lush and fresh season of rebirth. Spring offers a variety of metaphors and concepts for photographers to express, such as rebirth, cleansing, and beauty, and after spending most of the winter indoors, photographers love to head outside and capture some spring photographs.
Here you’ll find some of the most beautiful examples of spring photography that we could find. From the budding of the first trees and the first flowers to break through the remaining snow, to the explosion of life and color in mid-to-late spring, these spring photos will leave you amazed.
Photo by Ekaterina Utimisova
Always Use Auto Focus
One of the most important things to consider is the focus. Make sure that all of your images are in perfect focus. No matter how good you are with manual focus, it’s probably a good idea to employ the use of your camera’s auto focus. Even a small focus shift can make the image useless.
Shoot at the Right Distance
Another important consideration is to shoot your subjects from the right distance. There is no rule or fixed distance from which to shoot textures. It all depends of what you’re shooting, how much detail you want in the picture, for what the picture will be used, and what kind of lens you are using.
There are a few general guidelines to suggest, though. For example, if you are shooting a small, regular pattern (e.g. a brick wall), try to get the shot as wide as you can. The more details you have in the picture, the better the texture will be.
Shoot details in close up so you have more information to edit later on. For example, if you are shooting a window or similar object, try to fill the frame with it.
Another potential subject is a type of fabric, cloth, or clothing. You need to get really close up to this type of material, to really capture the details of the fabric in enough detail for the texture.
Choose the Best Possible Angle
When you photograph textures, you need to shoot them at a ninety degree angle so they face straight to the camera. That is required to get the flat “texture” look, otherwise you need to post process the textures in Photoshop trying to fix perspective issues.
Try to shoot all your textures at close to a ninety degree angle, because there’s a limit to what can be achieved with even the most advanced post-processing software.
Avoid Shadows, Glare, and Reflection
The key to successful texture is to get an evenly lit image. When you shoot textures, the best time is when the weather is cloudy and there is no direct sunlight which lights the surface you shoot. The clouds work as a big natural soft-box making the light very soft. This time is great for shooting textures.
You may need to check the weather forecast from time to time when you plan to shoot textures. Alternatively, if you don’t want to be controlled by the weather, you can always purchase a diffuser kit and block the direct sunlight to make the surface nice and evenly lit.
Avoid any kind of shadows. If you’re seeing shadows across the surface, don’t press the shutter – it’s as simple as that! These can’t be fixed in post-processing, and will lead to an unpleasant and unusable texture.
Do your best to avoid glare as well. This can be helped by using a lens hood, and you could also consider picking up a UV filter. It will filter part of the light and improve the look of your final image.
A final aspect to take care of is any reflections. The hardest surfaces to shoot are the reflective ones. If you shoot glossy surfaces like shiny metal, glass, reflective plastic or others, you’ll find the process tricker than usual.
First, you can use a polarizing filter to avoid the reflections. Another alternative is to shoot your textures in a dark room using a few soft-boxes to light up the surfaces.
Getting the Right Exposure
When you shoot textures, it is very important to get the right exposure. We already talked about aperture values, so we have to take a look only at the ISO and shutter settings. Try to keep your ISO setting as low as possible. If you really need to increase the ISO, try to keep it below 800 to avoid any noise that will affect your texture when viewed at a high resolution.
Setting the Shutter Speed
The next thing we are going to take a look is the shutter speed. It all depends of the light conditions and your equipment. If you shoot mostly handheld, try to use shutter speeds that start from 1/60th of a second and above.
Remember that you need a proper exposure for your textures. Try to avoid any blown out areas – any white areas can’t be corrected in post, as there’s no information to fall back on. My advice is to shoot your textures just a tiny bit underexposed, because it is easier to brighten up the images instead of trying to fix blown out areas.
Always Shoot in RAW
Another very important thing is to shoot in RAW format. It gives you a lot more control and flexibility with the images later on when it comes to post processing. This format takes several times more storage space then a regular JPG file, but it’s well worth it.
If you don’t have a big memory card, a good tip is to turn off JPG + RAW mode and shoot only RAW. This way you can save some storage for a few extra textures!
Use a Tripod
If you shoot in dark environment and want good results you need to decrease your shutter speed, which as you already know will make your images blurry if you shoot handheld. Here comes our best friend, the tripod. Get a good tripod and make sure your images are rock solid and steady.
Avoid Wide Angle Lenses
One of the key things to avoid when shooting good textures is wide angle lenses. As you may know, wide lenses cause what is called “lens distortion”. In some cases it can be fixed easily in Photoshop, but that is just additional work that can be avoided by using a longer lens.
I personally prefer to use a prime lens for shooting textures – especially the 50mm lens which works great for both full frame cameras and those with a crop factor.
There are some really strong advantages to using a prime lens to shoot textures. They don’t cause lens distortion, and are extremely sharp at f2.8 and above. However if you don’t own a prime lens, or don’t want to spend extra money for such, you can use whatever lens you have. Just make sure you shoot your textures at 35mm and above to avoid any wide angle distortion.
Photo by Ekaterina Utimisova