5 Tips for black and white landscape photography
Black and white landscape photography can convey the realistic feeling of a landscape to the last detail. Often, shooting black and white allows you to discover a completely new perception of the subject captured in the photo.
Photographing in black and white means:
Relying exclusively on lighting and contrast. This will reveal the subject’s shape and texture through your own creations.
For those who are more advanced in this field, the main factors to consider are the photographic details; the highlights and shadows, the angle. The angle of view is the angle framed by a camera and, more precisely, the angle under which the diagonal of the image is seen.
For those who are beginners or those who practice this genre at an amateur level, the main aspect remains the composition of the image with the aim of capturing the beauty and uniqueness of the landscape.
In order to succeed with black and white landscape photography, learn to observe the light. Learn to observe the contrasts and visualize your scenarios in shades of gray and monochrome.
As always, in order to develop a new skill or to refine a technique, you need to be willing to put in some effort, a little time, practice and dedication.
1 Set your intention
The first thing you want to consider is that converting a colored image in black and white during post-processing is not the way to master black and white photography. Although sometimes this “way out” will save you a shot, it is not to be considered a solution.
If you want to master black and white landscape photography, you need to go out to your shooting session with the intention of creating a black and white landscape photo.
By setting your picture control to monochrome you will be able to view the photos on the LCD screen in black and white, that way you will have a better idea of what works and what doesn’t in that landscape or subject in front of you. By using the monochrome style you will soon be able to identify if a particular subject, or a landscape, is suited for black and white.
2 Highlights and shadows
What you want to do, at first, is to really pay attention to the contrast between shadows and highlights in every area of the frame.
Observe all details that will need to stand out if you want to create a meaningful picture. Search for lines, shapes, patterns and textures.
To practice, single out certain elements like a tree with lighter background for instance or a cloud with patches of light, a bush in the foreground. Take some shots of those single elements and then work your way to extend to the entire landscape.
This exercise will help you see how contrasts work to convey meaning and significance to a picture. You will learn to recognize how highlights and shadows intermingle to evoke different emotions and feelings.
3 A most important question
Without the distraction of colors, it is the true character of the subject that will tinge the image. That is what you want to capture. How do I do that? You might ask…Well, first you can look at those elements that have the strongest character, which could mean a peculiar shape, a deep texture, something that catches your attention.
Ask yourself what it is about that element that appealed to you and why. Then, try to convey that in the picture you are taking. If you practice this process, you will create black and white masterpieces.
When it comes to putting all the various elements together and capture the entire landscape, try to find that perfect balance by contrasting each element in order to create dynamic photographs.
4 Look beyond what is obvious
Black and white photography, unlike color, allows you to emphasize less obvious visual and atmospheric qualities.
When an image has nothing to say in terms of color gradations or if these are bland and soft, you can make use of backlighting, the silhouette effect, to create strong contrasts.
This is an aspect on which less experienced photographers tend to encounter a bit of difficulty, because being able to see good light and capture contrasts usually requires the ability to pre-visualize an image.
Don’t worry. This is something that you can refine with practice and dedication. The more you try to look beyond what is obvious, the more you will learn to see almost in black and white.
The communicative effectiveness of photography is rendered in black and white when the intent is to emphasize the shape and the structural elements of the subjects in front of you.
The structure is a relevant aesthetic factor in all forms of art, and landscape photography is no exception.
Stones, plants and other natural forms present in a landscape are perfect subjects. You can choose these to start practicing and observing shapes and structures.
5 Midday light is favorable
Usually, the best time to take a landscape photo is when the light is less intense (especially at sunrise and sunset). However, when you shoot images in black and white, the midday light is favorable as it offers clear lines and well-marked shadows.
Few more things to keep in mind when it comes to back and white landscape photography…
Using a wide-angle allows you to capture a broader scenario by highlighting its perspective. That’s why this type of lens is widely used in landscape photography.
Beside setting your picture control to monochrome (as suggested in the first tip) it’s always a good idea to shoot in RAW format. This helps to keep as much information as possible and have more options during the post-production phase.
Silver Efex Pro 2 is a useful plugin for black and white photos because of the range of creative tools and adjustments that it has.
In front of a landscape, always ask yourself if the beauty of what you have in front of you is based exclusively on color or if there are other interesting aspects that can be enhanced.
Taking pictures in black and white means changing the way you look at the scenery before you: it is not enough to change the settings of the camera. Black and white photographs have their own charm and landscapes are no different.
Black and white photos ignite the imagination and make people dream and interpret the picture in a much deeper way than a more realistic colored image.