Black and white nature photography is iconic. Although photography was originally all monochrome, it can still be a striking and dramatic effect, even today.
Even with a massive advancement in available equipment, shooting nature in black and white photography can be complicated. Black and white photography is really all about whether you, as the photographer, can see your subject in shades of gray and foresee how it will turn out when shot in monochrome. Good composition and contrast is essential. It all comes down to shooting the subject right and knowing whether the scene will work in black and white.
Nature and landscapes make excellent subjects for black and white photography. One reason for this is the possibilities with contrast within the composition. To start, always look for good light, contrast, texture, shapes, and patterns. These are key to shooting a dramatic monochrome photograph. When you get it right, it is well worth it. Black and white photographs really do make beautiful art pieces.
Here are some tips and techniques to get started on your black and white photography journey.
The Importance Of Contrast
For black and white photography to work well, contrast is key. Look for subject matter that will offer a contrast between the darkest and the lightest elements in your field of view, making the image pop. Since there is no color, if your image lacks contrast, the photo can appear flat and dull. Although photoshop may be able to help you a little after the shot is taken, if it’s not naturally in the image, it’s not going to help.
Lighting The Way
The light on offer will give you a hint as to whether you’ll have good contrast and therefore an excellent black and white photo. For example, a sunny day with blue skies – where there are patches of light streaming through clouds, patterned clouds in a blue sky, etc. Flat light can also help make things look dramatic, but make sure you look for and include darker elements within the scene because this will make the darker, black details make the light colors appear brighter.
Texture, shapes, and patterns look more dramatic and prominent in black and white. Sometimes you don’t even notice a color pattern, but it comes to the forefront when shooting black and white. Luckily, when shooting landscapes and nature, you will discover texture and pattern in the most unlikely places. For example, the sky with scattered clouds or wind markings in the sand gives texture you wouldn’t notice in a color shot. For the best black and white photography in nature, include pattern and texture in your shots, and you will undoubtedly make your photographs more attractive. What makes the texture in a picture so striking is that the lines from the texture or pattern lead the viewer’s eye around your composition rather than to one aspect of it. This adds a dimension and depth to the entire image.
Look for Clean Contrast between Whites and Blacks in the Image
Without clean blacks and whites in your photography, you’ll land up with only shades of gray, making a dull, ‘muddy’ image. This will draw the viewer’s eye in, where they will notice the texture and pattern better.
You can alter your subject’s black, white, and gray range by changing your exposure and leading the viewer’s eye to the focal point you wish them to see. It’s all about understanding what will work in black and white and then how to enhance it. If you only think in color, this will be pretty tricky. So play around with your exposure at different times of the day with varying lighting options until you start to think in black and white and understand how altering your exposure may help the drama and composition of your nature black and white photography.
What’s In The Foreground?
What if your subject matter doesn’t offer a pleasing texture or pattern? Then we suggest you look for an element in the foreground that will guide the viewer’s eye and add interest to the scene. Features like rocks, foliage, and interesting architecture can create something unique that will evoke emotion in the viewer. Black and white photography in nature really works, and using form and shape to add interest in a large landscape gives your black and white image an edge of intrigue.
Shades of Gray
Tonality talks about how many shades of gray there are in your composition. You’re looking for a complete tonal range, showcasing grays from black to white. However, that being said, once you understand the tone and how a range of grays work together, you can disregard the rule and play with what you think works well for your particular shot. Perhaps you don’t want a range of whites in your shot, but want to focus on the blacks and grays. Once you have worked within the rules and understand them, you can break them and create your own interesting tonal range.
A Good Composition
Composition is vital for all photography, not just black and white. But with black and white photography, there are fewer colors to help balance your subject matter, and you rather have to rely on the other things we have discussed, like form, texture, contrast, etc. In black and white images, you’ll find that the viewer’s eye is drawn to the brightest or sharpest objects first. The eye will then follow the form of this object and explore the composition from there. So you need to ensure the composition offers this point to encourage the viewer to stay and explore the photograph.
We love black and white photography in nature and how creative you can get with your natural surroundings. Use the above black and white nature photography tips and techniques to enhance texture, pattern, contrast, and lighting to take memorable black and white photos. You’ll only get better with practice.