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Black and White Part 1: Easy Techniques to Try

Why do I want to change a color photo into a black and white photo?

There are basically two reasons why. You like black and white photography or want to play with black and white. The other reason or benefit of black and white is you will actually see more of the details in your photography.  

In the example below, you can really notice the shapes of the stone wall and the lighting on the barrell in back draws your eye through the photo better.

Photos were taken at vintage woollen mill in Salem, Oregon.

Always Shoot in Color

Most pads, computers and phones have basic editing software that can change your color photo into a black and white. Don’t set your camera to take your photos in black and white . You will lose valuable color information and gray shading options.  

There are a couple of reasons to always shoot in color. What if you wanted to see it or use in color one day. You won’t be able to. Your camera will take out all the color and then turn every color into a shade of gray. You won’t have the ability to adjust the gray shading. and that really limits your post processing choices.  Whenever possible always shoot in color and then change it during post processing.  That will give you all the data your camera collected for you to play with.

Do All Photos Make a Good Black and White Photo?

The answer is No. Here are a couple examples that don’t work well.

This robin shows up nicely on the green grass. One the black and white, the robin blends into the grass and you can’t really tell it is a robin. (click on either photo to get a slide show) The biggest problem with this one is that the photo is basically all one color and the texture is pretty much the same throughout the photo.

Here is a tree truck that is covered in moss and it shows up beautifully in color, but the black and white doesn’t show off the photo. This photo has a lot of texture so it shows off the bark pretty good, but you lose the moss definition and color in the black and white.

So what does make a good black and white photo?

Different Textures and Patterns

To make the details of your photos really stand out, look for texture and patterns.  Look at the lines and determine if they are a contrast in color to the rest of your photo.  Same with shadows and shapes. NOTE: Watch out for too much sun, you will lose detail in the texture.

With this rose photo, you see the darker lines and hardness of the metal chainlink fence.  Notice you see quickly through the fence to find the familiar shape of a rose.  The hardness and regularity of the fence is in contrast to the curving lines of the flower.

The lines in the railroad tracks have a lot of texture.  The rails themselves stand out because they are so bright and breaks up the texture of the gravel beside the tracks.


Another things that works real well in black and white photo is contrast.  Contrast can be demonstrated by a specific area of smooth and a specific area of roughness, by light and dark.  These clouds were so beautiful and show the contrast wonderfully well.

The contrast in this photo is in the tones of gray and black.  You have some real dark and some real light gray.  With the  light background, the shadow really stands out.  Can’t you imagine what that old camera would feel like in your hands?   What about the porcelain face of the clown?   Can’t you just feel how smooth that is?

In the next pair of photos, a lot of color and light contrasts make this photo much better in black and white than its color counterpart.  Once again, the details really pop because of the sharper contrast between black and white.  The color photo has too many different colors and it can be distracting to the viewer.

Here is the color version. It looks good in color.

Now compare the black and white version, you will notice the the McCaw’s feet really pops.

Next week, I will be showing you some advanced techniques for working with black and white photos. I use Bridge using Camera Raw a part of any Adobe editing software.

I’ve gathered a list of challenges and their hosts.  So if you know a challenge host, please direct them to my blog.  Feel free to contact me anytime.  I hope everyone will be able to use my lists.

Qi (energy) hugs


59 replies »

  1. Good tutorial. I was recently told never to convert colour to b/w, but rather to shoot in b/w if that was what I wanted the shot to be, as it produces better results than converting. I’ve been experimenting a bit, and in my case, I do seem to get better results from not converting. But I don’t think I’m a great b/w photographer!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A great informative post Cee. I use B&W shooting if the occasion I feel requires it. My software is great at converting from colour especially if contrast is what I am after.
    I hope many people will benefit from reading this. It has been a while since you posted a lesson 🙂 🙂


  3. This is an excellent and useful tutorial on shooting black/white photos. I appreciate the plain talk, without too much jargon. love your site… gorgeous photos and good challenges. Thanks.


  4. Every once in awhile this “blue holly” shrub does something spectacular when I even walk past it with pruning shears. LOL It gets really ratty looking, then apparently realizes it better shape up. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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