Black and white landscape photography has been around for a long time. The first photographs were originally black and white, as color reproduction was not possible back then. Even today, black and white imagery still invokes a feeling of nostalgia among many people.
True landscape photography goes way beyond the application of a conventional greyscale or a black and white filter on your photos. When shooting landscapes, one of the most important things that you need to keep in mind is the space that you want to highlight.
Remember, a landscape simply aims to capture a large space in the world, and the focus typically lies on nature. However, thanks to modern photography techniques, landscape photos can also be of buildings, parks, and other things. But, if you are planning to shoot these landscapes in black and white, understanding a thing or two about color reproduction is vitally important.
If you are going to be shooting landscapes in black and white, here are a few important tips that will help you get the best out of your shots.
Find the Beauty in Your Photos
The first and most important tip for any photographer is to figure out what you are trying to capture. A photographer usually seeks beauty in different things, and if you are going to take black and white photos, finding what you want to capture is of vital importance.
Whether the photo is bathed in the warm glow of the sun during the golden hour or the bright lights, the key is to consider black and white landscapes in a different way. You have to look at things through a slightly different “lens,” so to speak.
The golden hour for instance, is no longer the golden rule when it comes to shooting in black and white. The warm glow of the sun is going to affect the exposure and your entire scene will be turned into grey areas. Ultimately, the scene that you are interested in creating will lose all of its dramatic appeal, and you will be left with a boring, monochromatic image.
Learn How to Accentuate Your Contrasts
If you take a look at some of the most iconic black and white landscape photography, you will realize that all of them have one thing in common: the range of tones is incredibly strong. You will notice shades of pure white as well as deep blacks, and everything that lies in between.
The contrast within the imagery can ultimately lead to some phenomenal results. The human eye is designed to look at the full range of color spectrum, which is why it takes a bit of time for the brain to rewire itself and look at a scene that is solely composed of shadows and highlights.
With the passage of time, you will begin to develop an understanding of how the image is going to look when it is portrayed in black and white. You will begin to see how certain colors, such as the green grass, will contrast with the other colors when the image is turned into a black and white image.
Use Texture to Your Advantage
Skilled photographers know that the world around them is full of texture, and they are able to take advantage of that. This includes a mixture of both manmade textures as well as the natural landscapes. The difference in texture is what you need to learn to leverage when taking black and white photos.
For instance, if you are taking a photo of a cliff and the sea, your focus should be on clarity so that the texture can pop up. Proper lighting in the background can dramatically increase the texture and make your photos really pop.
Photo Composition Must Be Prioritized
Remember, it doesn’t matter if you are shooting photos in black and white, the rules of composition are still going to be applicable on all your shots. For instance, you will still have to vary your viewpoint and look for a natural frame. You will also want to place the horizon centrally in your shots and look for patterns or leading lines.
However, there’s a bit more that must be taken into consideration when you are shooting in black and white. For instance, you need to think about how the tone of the scene is going to play out when the final image is processed and composed.
Each of the colors in your original photo will be depicted with a different shade, so you will have to understand how to create a balance with your photos.
More importantly, many photographers who shoot in black and white are often worried about taking portrait shots. Again, it primarily depends on the scene you are shooting. If you are thinking that shooting black and white portraits is a bit cliched, you might want to think again. There are many photographers who are able to take stunning portrait shots in black and white because they know how to let the scene dictate the shot.
Make Smart Use of Filters
One thing is a given: you will have to use filters every now and then. The tonal range is going to improve dramatically with your black and white images if you know how to use the right filters. For instance, if you are shooting a scene with a higher contrast, you will have to make use of filters.
Similarly, taking a shot of a bright sky right above the darkened ground will greatly improve the dynamic range of your shots. To improve the quality of your shots, you should install a graduated neutral density filter over the lens. This will help you create a balance between both the elements, and you will ultimately have an image that perfectly retains both shadows and highlights.
These filters have an opaque cover at the top, and eventually fade and clear completely as they reach the bottom. Essentially, this reduces the amount of light that reaches the sensor from the top (the sky). Conversely, they balance the exposure from the ground as well.
If you are going to be taking shots on a sunny day, using a graduated neutral density filter is one of the best things that you can do. On the other hand, if you are into black and white photography, you should always have a set of non-graduated filters on hand.
These filters have a uniform grey coating and will significantly reduce the light that passes through the space in the lens. In certain cases, you can also use them to increase the exposure for those gorgeous shots.
Black and white landscape photography is all about being able to showcase the world without color, while still retaining the highlights, so that another person is able to determine exactly what you are trying to show and also see the range of colors in the photo without actually being able to view them.
This is the whole concept of landscape photography. Furthermore, you have to understand that post-processing is an important part of balancing your photos. If you don’t properly post-process your shots, you simply won’t be able to get the level of detail that you would want from each shot.