You only have to look around to see that when it comes to photography, these days color is king. Long gone is the time when Ansel Adams, Henry Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa were plying their trade almost exlusively with black and white film.
Nonetheless, there’s still something magical about black and white photography. This enigmatic quality is one reason why, this month, we challenged you to Instagram your best black and white photos to win a Nokia Lumia 1020. Happily, as the thousands of entries have shown, experimenting with black and white is a phase most photographers go through at some point, even if mastering this classic art form can take time.
To help you do just that, we asked for help from the smartphone photography maestros at NBAN. This renowned web community, otherwise know as Nothing but a Nokia, agreed to post their favourite black and white photos and share their secrets on how to make photos stand out from the monochrome crowd. Here’s what they had to say.
“Don’t be scared of the dark! When working with low light the contrast between light and darkness can tell you more than brightened picture!” Emmanuela Zaccone
“Try to retain the small details in the shot. Don’t go too harsh on contrast or you’ll loose all the details. It’s not always possbile to get clean whites and blacks so keep it grey. Grey looks good.” – Husain Ujjainwala
“I use high contrast and low brighness. Mornings and evenings are good time to take black and white pictures because of the low brightness.” – Abhijeet Shetty
“With my 808 I go for manual settings and always keep high contrast.” – Harish Kumar
On using apps:
”Normally I don’t walk around looking specifically black and white pictures, but sometimes I try converting coloured ones into black and white with Picasa on computer or Fantasia Painter on Phone.” – Peter Tjark
“I like to use the app OneShot especially for black and white because you can set three tailormade settings, which is super good if you need a certain setting really fast. One of them is my black and white where I’ve removed all saturation to get rid of the colours.”- Anthony Hunter
”I post edit on Lightroom with computer and with phone Fantasia painter and Fhotoroom.” – Harish Kumar
”Try different apps like Instagram, Hipstamatic oggl or Fantasia painter.” –Deepak Khonei
”Black and white pictures tell a story, so having a subject makes it more appealing.” – Husain Ujjainwala
I definitely agree with the NBAN photographers that high contrast usually looks good in the black and white, but still it’s usually best to avoid the high contrast situations like shooting in the direct sunlight. Mornings, evenings and cloudy days give your black and white photos a nice variety of tones to process further, but remember not to overdo it in the post – you need all those beautiful grey tones too! Old weathered buildings and everything with loads of texture are also worth searching for as those unpolished subjects make most of the play between light and shadow.
Yet by far the most important thing to remember – and not exactly a secret – is to shoot, and shoot again. Practice makes perfect and slowly you’ll learn what looks good in black and white and which photos really need the colour.
So, what did you think of our selection and the top tips shared by the Nothing but a Nokia community? And, just as importantly, have you got any black and white photography tips you’d like to share? If so, you know where to go.