Master Monochrome: Tips and Gear for Black and White Photography

Color photography has been the standard for many years and while we love vibrant, colorful images as much as the next photographer, we encourage photographers to take a walk on the monochromatic side. Black and white photography is a wonderful way to elevate everyday scenes or capture compelling moments. Known for evoking emotion and capturing nostalgia in a way color photography can struggle to compete with, black and white photography is perfect for anything from landscapes and portraits, to street photography and still lifes!  


Image by Hunter Hart

There’s a lot of reasons to love black and white photography and removing color from an image can help you achieve a lot artistically. While it may seem pretty simple, shooting in black and white can completely transform your photography. Monochromatic images are often immediately more timeless, nostalgic, and evocative. Shooting your images in black and white forces your viewers to get to the heart of the image without the “distraction” of color, resulting in more emotional and powerful images.

Image by Ihor Balaban

From a more technical standpoint, black and white photography can help photographers get back to the basic techniques that make a great photo like composition and form, light and shadow, and texture and detail. Because of the simplicity of these images, not only is it easier for photographers to focus on the elements that go into making an image but viewers of your images may also be able to appreciate the artistry behind your images a bit more. 

Image by Hunter Hart

Composition +  Form

When shooting in black and white, composition is king. By removing color, the framing, lines, shapes, and pattern in your scene draw a lot of attention. A well composed black and white image, can transform an everyday or mundane scene into something more dramatic or impactful. Black and white photography forces photographers to slow down and enjoy the process of creating an impactful, meaningful image. 


Light + Shadow

Perhaps the most important photographic element, light plays a hugely pivotal role in black and white images. Without color to help highlight separation, depth, and dimension within your scene you’ll need to rely heavily on balancing light and shadow. When balancing light and shadow in your images, you’ll also want to keep in mind the mood or emotion of your scene, as it can really impact your viewer’s interpretation of a scene. Generally if you’re hoping to evoke strong emotions or a dramatic mood, you’ll want high contrast images with deep shadows. If you’re aiming for a calmer or lighter image, you’ll want softer, more subtle shadows. Mastering the use of light and shadows in your black and white images is a huge step towards evocative and emotional images your audience can connect with. 

Image by Ihor Balaban

Texture + Detail

Sometimes in full color images, textures and detail can get lost. In Black and white photography, mastering light and shadow will help you document the finer details of your images and draw your viewers eye to the intricate details they may otherwise miss! Whether you’re shooting portrait or landscape images, a focus on texture and detail can bring an authenticity and realness to your images.


Image by Hunter Hart

Black and white photography can pose a unique challenge for photographers used to shooting full color images and while you can typically get awesome black and white images with the gear you already have, if you’re looking to try something new, we have a few recommendations! 

When looking for a camera, we recommend cameras with excellent dynamic range, autofocus capabilities, and high resolution. Black and white images can be a little less forgiving than full color images, so you’ll want to make sure your camera is taking reliable, high quality images. 

If you’re looking to switch things up, consider taking a break from digital photography and grab a film camera! Film is a great way to capture black and white images and can bring a fun, nostalgic element to not only your images but your photography process. We have tons of film cameras on our used gear shelf waiting for a new photography adventure! 

Black and White Film

Image by Hunter Hart

Similar to color photography, lenses can really change the vibe and appearance of your images, but these artistic differences may be easier to notice in a black and white image. 

Standard prime lenses are great for black and white images as they are sharp, versatile, and are great for capturing bokeh or blurring backgrounds for portraiture.

Wide angle lenses can bring a different perspective to your images and are great for street photography, landscapes, or any wider scene you want to capture with detail.

Zoom and prime telephoto lenses are also great for black and white photography as they can help achieve incredible depth of field, offer sharp image quality, bokeh, and background blurring. These lenses are also great for capturing further away subjects while maintaining excellent detail and clarity. 

With great gear and these black and white photography tips in mind, you’re already on your way to stunning monochromatic images. Grab your camera and head out to explore the world through a black and white lens and see for yourself what makes black and white photography so great! 

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