Taking black and white photos is quite a difficult task. It is certainly one of the most complex areas of landscape photography. You have to be very careful about the circumstances in which the photos will actually look good in black and white.
Removing color from a scene isn’t easy, and some very subtle but powerful decisions have to be made to make photos speak more in the absence of color. I have personally faced various challenges in black and white landscapes, so in this article I will share five important factors to keep in mind when photographing stunning black and white landscapes.
Yes, the texture is the first point I keep in mind when photographing in black and white. We can tell a huge amount of stories with just textures in the frame. And by textures, I don’t just mean rocks and mountains – it also includes the simplest abstract textures found in nature or wherever there are irregularities in the frame.
In this photo taken from Sandakphu, the most famous mountains of the Sleeping Buddha Range are seen here – Mt. Kanchenjungha and Mt. Kabru. The textures of these famous mountains are impressive enough to make for stunning black and white images.
Where we cannot make any difference with the colors, the contrast plays a very important role. You have to realize a lot of what’s going on in the scene with the shadows and highlights.
In this image of Rishyap, the silhouette of the tree on the left contrasts with the highlights of the image. In addition, the varied contrast in the clouds makes the image interesting with the left side lighter and the right side darker, contrasting with the tree in the foreground.
Light plays another extremely important role in black and white landscapes. The direction, orientation and intensity of light are important in their own way to create stunning black and white images.
In this photo of Kolakham, I was able to get the sun with a glow and the rays coming out of a cloud behind the tree, thus getting a brilliant light throughout the image. The only color in the image was blue, due to the blue sky and cooler white balance which did not help image development. That’s why I ended up just making a black and white image out of it.
Without keeping colors in mind and with viewers getting no color in the frame, composition becomes of the utmost importance when working with black and white landscapes! Various composition techniques can be used in these photos, and one can get extremely creative with the compositions.
In this photo of Tumling I didn’t have a color to play with, it was extremely dull and gray with very brownish fields, but when the clouds started coming in and the tree was coming in and out of the clouds , I set up my composition and waited for this perfect moment to capture this tree with the road leading to the side.
This is yet another factor to keep in mind when taking long exposure photos of moving water in black and white. Awesome shapes will almost always be achieved when working with water landscapes and this can be put to good use in black and white photos.
In this photo of Gopalpur, I was able to capture the shapes of the water rising from the waves and give a unique look to the image.
So here are my five favorite tips for stunning black and white landscapes. One thing to keep in mind is that black and white is different from monochrome. Black and white photos have no other colors than all shades of gray (including black and white)! Monochrome, on the other hand, is a technique for creating an image with shades of the same color, which is essentially not gray.
About the Author: Subham Shome is a landscape and travel photographer based in Agarpara Kolkata, West Bengal, India. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone. You can find more of Shome’s work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published here.