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Black & White Photography Tips

written by: Amber Neely•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 4/21/2012

Trying to become an expert at black & white photography? Tips within this article include the importance of low contrast days, why repetition is surprisingly interesting, and how you can use a fan and a sheet to learn how to capture movement within your photographs.

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    Wild Horses If you're a novice, it may seem like there is nothing easy about black and white photography. Tips and tricks contained within this article will help you snap pictures in no time, teaching you why texture becomes an important element, how a sheet can help you learn about shadow composition, and the reason that clouds can be your new best friend!

    Image Credit: c@rljones

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    Lower that ISO!

    Lower the ISO to the lowest setting possible for your standard black and white photography. Why? Noise (aka that graininess that comes with higher ISO shots) is much more noticeable in a black and white photograph. Besides, it's always easier to add noise later to a photograph in Photoshop if you really want it! Still not clear about ISO? Check out What Does ISO Stand For? for more tips and tricks!

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    Mind Your Composition

    The lines of this photo draw your eyes deep into the image Color plays such a huge role in composition that removing it completely will likely mean that you'll have to retrain your eye to see what makes a picture interesting. Look for interesting lines, shapes, and textures as well as contrasts in tone to help you figure out how to frame your shot. And above all, pay special mind to both highlights and shadows which will become the front and center of your black and white photographs.

    Image by: PhilPankov.com

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    Embrace the Gloomy Day

    Photographers who shoot in color often complain that lower contrast situations - such as a dark or overcast day - ruin the vibrancy of their photographs. Fortunately for you, budding black and white photographer, these are the days that you should seek out the most! Not only does this help diffuse the light naturally and lead to a better color balance, it helps enhance the mood as well.

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    Repetition Makes Perfect!

    Repeating architecture An extension to minding your composition, it should be noted that showcasing repetitions or patterns in black and white photography is a great way to add interest into your photograph, as well as drawing the eye deeper into the photo! So be on the lookout for the next time that row of trees or streetlights manage to line up oh-so-perfectly!

    Image Credit: *squeezy*

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    Mind that Flash

    If you absolutely must use flash, try diffusing it. Sure, you could use a built in diffuser or buy one if your camera isn't already equipped with one, but keep in mind that there are other methods of doing this, such as bouncing the flash off of the ceiling! Here's an article that can tell you all about flash diffusers!

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    Capture Movement

    Moving clouds make for an interesting effect and shadow play While this obviously isn't required, capturing movement is another great way to draw the eye into your photo. Rolling clouds, blowing wind, flowing fabric, and moving water are all interesting moving elements that translate fantastic to black & white photography. Tips? Practice by setting up a fan, a few lamps, and hanging a sheet or a loose piece of fabric so it blows in the breeze. Use this to train yourself to capture movement, paying special mind to both shadows and highlights as well as positioning. This simple experiment will also help train you to become more comfortable with your camera's exposure settings.

    Image by: .-^oaks^-.

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    Take your Pictures RAW

    If you have the option of shooting in RAW format instead of JPG, you've got the ability to do some pretty spectacular things in post-production. RAW format often allows you to preview your images in black and white while you're learning to ignore color, but still saves all the color information in case you're not entirely sold on the shot being in black and white.