Black and White Photography Ideas

One advantage to black and white photography, or shooting with the intent of converting to black and white, is it allows the photographer to focus on composition without being distracted by color.

Below we share tips for taking black and white pictures. Use them in addition to basic photography techniques to compose your image.

Use the photo ideas below to inspire you to get out and capture your own black and white images.

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CAMERA GEAR FOR LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY

We use a Camera Gear Checklist to help us pack all the equipment we need – that way we don’t forget anything!

We recommend the following camera equipment for taking landscape photos:

1. Camera: You probably already have one, but if you’re looking for something new  → check out the compact travel cameras we recommend!

2. Tripod: Using a tripod is something we’ll always recommend. There are many compact and lightweight travel tripods we recommend!

3. Camera Bag: Protecting your camera from sand and water is essential. Using a camera backpack is so nice for hiking too.  → We use Lowepro camera backpacks for outdoor photography.

4. Neutral density filter: There can be extreme differences in light when taking landscape pictures. To compensate for this variance of light you’ll need to use a neutral density filter.  → Check out the Kase magnetic filters we use!

5. Camera cleaning kit: You’ll want a field cleaning kit to remove dust or water that WILL get on your lens. NOTE: this is not for cleaning the sensor.  → This is the camera cleaning kit we use!

6. Memory cards: Purchase name brand memory cards since you’re trusting your images to the card!  → We use Lexar and Sandisk!

7. External hard drive: Don’t forget to copy the photos to a portable external hard drive ‘just in case’.  → Check out these awesome portable external hard drives

8. Headlamp: For the best sunrise shots, you want to arrive at your designated location well before the sun rises. Most of the time this means total darkness. Use a flashlight or headlamp to light your way from the parking lot to your spot. Wearing a headlamp allows you to set up your equipment without having to hold a flashlight. Remember to use the red light setting and keep the beam pointed on the ground in front of you to avoid disrupting other photographers in the area taking long exposure shots. → Check out these headlamps with the red light!

Black and White Photography Ideas

Take a look at the black and white photos shared by members of our Facebook Group, Your Photography Journey.

Use the tips and ideas for inspiration to get out and photograph your own black and white images!

Composition

In this amazing image captured by Gary Danis the subject just pops right out of the composition, capturing and holding the viewer’s eye.

There is contrast between the shades of black and white in the foreground, midground and background. The darker background helps to bring attention to the structure in this image.

Richey Oliver provides a similar lesson using layers and black and white photography to highlight the motorcycle and wooden barn. 

The viewer can easily see the motorcycle in the foreground and wooden barn in the background because there is no distraction of color.

Lines, Textures and Shapes

Black and white is a great medium for emphasizing lines, textures and shapes. 

Converting to black and white enhances contrast. It defines edges to focus on the lines, textures and shapes in a scene or subject. 

In this photo by Nadine Meyer you’ll see the absence of distracting color allows greater focus on specific elements of the composition. 

This black and white shot emphasizes the lines, patterns and curves in this scene.

Kevin Hehl applies the benefits of black and white imagery in this interesting capture of the natural effects of an eroding environment on rock. 

The lines of the subject in the image are strikingly emphasized and the rolling textures and shapes of the rock highlighted by the dramatic, shadowy tones.

Gray Tones

Black and white photography is an impactful approach when shooting scenes or subjects that contain many tones of gray. 

Tony Kendrick captured an eye catching photo that demonstrates the power of gray tones in black and white.

The natural contrasts in the gray tones of the scene or subject provide an enhanced sense of drama and mood. 

William Holmes shares another amazing example of the power of black and white in expressing gray tones in a photograph. 

The shades of gray throughout the captured scene are strongly emphasized in a black and white photo. Gray tones help to define the subject and highlight the layers in a scene.

Timelessness

A powerful characteristic of black and white photography is the ability to cast a sense of timelessness to the scene. 

Jesse Simpson’s powerful capture of antiquity, cast in shades of black and white, illustrates this concept in the photo of an old schoolhouse.

The nature of black and white, in its lack of color, immediately establishes a perspective outside reality and creates a perfect environment for nostalgia and reflection of time passed by. 

There is nice balance in the photo with the dark tones of the subject and the lighter tones of the wall behind.

James Griffin really delivers in the timeless quality of this scene by using black and white photography.

In reference to subject matter, sometimes a great deal of planning and luck is needed to capture a modern scene to create a timeless effect.  Luck favors those who are prepared and skilled. 

Emotion

Black and white is a powerful medium for evoking emotion in photography. 

Denise Thomason has utilized the strong compositional aspects of black and white in this stirring photographic tribute. 

The image immediately evokes emotion as it expresses the wear and care of a service-focused life spent running toward the fire.

This work of art draws the viewer into a respect and reverence more powerful than any moment of silence could ever achieve.

Alesia Sanmarco’s captivating photograph rendered in black and white evokes strong emotion in an image to which we can all immediately relate. 

The stark contrast of brilliant whites and rich blacks enhanced by the shadowed leading lines combine to deliver a compelling composition built around an expressively captured subject.

Silhouette

Black and white is a good effect to use when photographing a silhouetted subject, as seen in this photo by Marilyn Williams. 

Black and white photography by Marilyn Switzer

The natural contrasts of the black and white layers of water help to make the silhouetted subject pop here.

Capturing the action of the boy in the water adds another element of interest for the viewer.

Black and white lends itself naturally to creative expression in contrast to realism. 

The nature of the tonal approach steps outside our natural comfort zone and disconnects us from the real world around us by eliminating color, thus opening the door to a realm of possibilities. 

In this really cool creative approach to black and white photography, Daphne Brislin has selectively reintroduced vibrant color to draw attention to the subject and make it pop against the darkened bokeh background.

Were you inspired by these photos?

Every week in our Facebook group (Your Photography Journey), we have a challenge that focuses on an element of composition. Understanding these simple elements will help you improve your photography skills!

→ DOWNLOAD our 52 Week Photography Challenge List!

We also do live video Photo Reviews each week to discuss compositional elements on the photos group members want us to review, similar to the video we included in this article.

Our group members find the reviews very helpful – see what they have to say! We’d love to have you join us!

join free photography group

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