Black And White Photography

While photography was limited to black and white photos back when cameras and photography were first emerging, with the advent of color film, many abandoned black and white photography. However, over recent decades, black and white photography has regained its former popularity due to the way it enhances or alters the mood of a photo.

Read on to learn more about the advantages of black and white photography, as well as how to effectively capture black and white photos.

Why Take Black and White Photos?

Although color has been king in photos since the introduction of color film, black and white has some unique advantages that you can”t capture with color film. Through black and white photography, you can make your photos more:

  • Classy: Black and white photos, when taken in a particular manner, can leave out small imperfections in your subject or scene because the contrast from black to gray (or gray to white) is far less than that of some other colors (red to purple, for example). As a result, the finished picture appears almost flawless, lending it a sense of refinement and class.
  • Mysterious: Because this type of photography only uses black, white and gray shades, it inherently produces more areas of shadow and blurriness in the resulting pictures. This blurry, foggy quality provides a sense of mystery and intrigue to the photo, especially if the shadows fall on the central subject.
  • Nostalgic and romantic: Because black and white photography has a historic value reminiscent of the beginning of photography, black and white photos come with a sense of nostalgia and romanticism not only for the moment captured in the photo, but also for the past in general.
  • Timeless: By removing color, black and white photography prevents photos from becoming dated. Although the clothing, cars and buildings may lend the viewer clothes clues about the time period, the lack of color suggests that the photo lives outside of time, frozen in a space that is unmarked my the temporality of fading colors.

Because black and white photography can add the above elements to pictures, many different types of photographers use black and white film, including those who practice:

  • gothic photography
  • landscape photography
  • nature photography
  • portraiture
  • wedding photography.

Black and White Photography Tips

Because black and white photography relies on only three gradations of color, lighting for the scene is extremely important. As a result, photographers that want to focus on the play of light prefer black and white photography.

To understand how black and white photography emphasizes light, read this example: Imagine sunbeams shining through a garish purple fence. In a color photo, the light effects would take second place to the ugly color of the fence. Take the same photo in black and white and, with the fence”s color no longer a factor, the photo focuses on the interplay of light and fence.

Keep in mind that it may take some time for amateurs to recognize how black and white photos represent light. However, with a bit of patience and practice, any amateur can master it.

Framing With Light and Shadows

Although light and shadow are often the focus of black and white photography, they can also be used to frame a subject. In general, while you should frame a dark subject with light, use a dark frame for a scene (or subject) set in the light.

For example, a dark archway could be used as a frame for a bride in a traditional dark dress. Conversely, a dark figure, such as an elaborate tombstone, may look imposing if it is framed with diffuse light. Of course, in photography, all rules can be broken if the result is a good photograph.

Color Conundrums

Have you ever found yourself in the position of taking a picture of a subject or scene in which there is an atrocious color that ruins the scene? The composition and overall effect of an otherwise beautiful portrait can be ruined by a single hideous color.

However, with black and white photos, the viewer doesn”t need to know that the offensive color was ever part of the original scene. If you want to mute unsightly colors, consider making your prints black and white photos to solve the problem.


Whether it”s the grooves on bark or the fuzz on an insect, sometimes, a photographer wants to focus on the texture of a subject. In theses cases, black and white photos are perfect. Because black and white photography eliminates color and emphasizes the play of light, it is ideal for focusing the viewer”s attention on the texture of the photo.

Timeless Subjects

If you are taking a picture of an historic place or a moment that you want to freeze in time, using black and white photography can lend a sense of timelessness to your shots. Here are a few examples of subjects rendered timeless in black and white photography:

  • a baby
  • a bride and groom on their wedding day
  • a Gothic Cathedral
  • a landscape
  • a mountain.

Black and White Photos Go Digital

As color film dominated the photography world, black and white film became more expensive and, therefore, was used less by photographers. However, with the advent of the digital camera and image altering software, black and white photography enjoyed a revival.