There is a certain unimaginable beauty in Monochromatic images. Ansel Adams was the most iconic Black & White (B&W ) landscape photographer. So much can be done with B&W. Nowadays all cameras are digital color, but we have the option just to shoot B&W with them with the built-in-black-and -white-setting, but we should not. This will interfere with the post-processing of the image. Shooting in color brings more information to the image, for instance, let’s say in the green or red zone which can be accentuated in post-processing but if we shoot in B&W.
You can opt for B&W if you are for instance shooting during the day, but your scenery has good contrast as well, or at night for instance where there is less light like in the streets, next time you go to Milan or Venice and you want to shoot beautiful building in lower light at night, process and go B&W instead. Remember flat light is OK, especially if you have fog in the picture, think B&W.
One other concept to remember for B&W is when you see strong shadows in the picture, think to process that image in B&W (Monochrome). If you are a landscape photographer, just don’t think you can only shoot at Sunrise and Sunset. You can shoot during the day as well, but you should process B&W instead.
Portraits in B&W would absolutely look great to focus on the face. Don’t forget to use Sepia color as well if you want an antique look of a picture, and it can look great. If you are shooting scenery, I would recommend using HDR, to increase the dynamic range and to get sharper and detailed color which can be switched to monochromatic also known as black and white to get a much sharper black and white image.
I use the Nik Collection software a lot for my B&W processing. The software is called Silver Efex Pro. Below are some sample images of the Wisconsin State Capitol taken in color and processed in Silver Efex Pro.
It is important to have the color, Black and White, in the picture for better contrast, if you can.
You can also be even more creative and focus on the sky instead and get your object underexposed (darker) and create an interesting exposure in color (see this blog post) or Black & White. All of these images below were created in color first for the best B&W transformation.
These images are from the Graveyard of Atlantic in Hatteras, NC. There is a Museum there too but you have to walk few miles to this location and get there at least 30 min before Sunrise. These ship wreckages are from early 1800 I was told and located on the farthest place in the United States Eastern Shore in the Outer Banks. It is a surreal place and the Sunrise was gorgeous that day and the sky was beautiful. I decided on the B&W on this image and looks more dramatic. I went with a focal length of 16mm so very wide trying to fit that interesting object in the foreground but also stressing the beautiful background as well. I made the sky bluer on the right image, so it has better contrast with clouds. Something to think about when you have nice scenery but not quite the effect you want, so need to find that foreground object. In this scenario, it could have been a nice shell that you can place in the foreground and take your shot with the magnificent sky. The result would be an even more awesome image!
The image below is from Lake Sabrina in California in May of 2021. The lake is almost empty, and it is quite striking especially given the drought we are facing this year. It is a beautiful place to visit and hike around. The image was taken hiking up to an island in the middle of the lake that is usually surrounded by water. It is a stark reminder of how fragile our ecosystem is and how we must protect our nature and environment.
Lastly, there are few Apps I use to create creative Black & White pictures taken on smartphones. Dramatic Black & White App (2nd image below) is only for iPhone. BlackCam – Black&White Camera App (3rd image below) is for iPhone and Androids. Both are about $3 each. There is also a free App from Google called Snapseed, which is also pretty good and can be used on iPhones and Androids.
I hope I was able to inspire some of you so far to seriously consider polishing your photography skills with your smartphones and hopefully buy a Mirrorless or DSLR Camera and start creating your own artistic interpretations of the world that surrounds you!
The world is waiting to be photographed in any way you like to imagine it!