six Tips to Improve Your Black and White Landscape Photography

6 Ways to Improve Your Black and White Landscape Photography

black and white landscape photography tips

Are you looking to take your own black and white surroundings photography to another level?

You’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we share six easy-to-follow guidelines that’ll improve your black and white landscapes; we also share lots of examples, so you can understand exactly what goes into a good black and white photo.

Particularly, you’ll discover:

  • The best camera settings for black and white photography
  • How to enhance your b& w landscapes with filter systems
  • What to look for inside a landscape scene
  • Much, much more!

So if you’re ready to capture black and white shots such as the pros…

…then let’s get started!

1 . Learn what moments work well in black and white

When shooting in color, you can rely on the strength of hues to create drama and interest. Often , the key to good color landscape photography is to find a dramatic picture and photograph it within the most beautiful light possible. That’s why so many color landscape photos are taken during the golden hour or just right after sunset.

Black and white landscape photography is very, very different. Without color, you need to work to create strong compositions . You can not rely on color contrast and golden light; instead, you should learn to look for the building blocks of photographic composition, such as top lines, shapes, patterns, tonal contrast, and texture. Basically, you must learn to see in black and white.

For example , this photo works well in black and white because of the contrast between the twin waterfalls and the darkish rocks:

black and white landscape waterfall

Educate yourself about black and white surroundings photography by looking at the function of masters, like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston , who worked well predominantly in black and white. Furthermore, look at what modern-day photographers are doing on Instagram and 500px . Some names to search for consist of Cole Thompson, Rob Dweck, Arnaud Bertrande, Thibault Roland, Joel Tjintjelaar, and Nathan Wirth.

If you look at their work, ask yourself: What makes their black and white panorama photos so dramatic plus powerful? What light are they shooting in? What photographic techniques are they using? Just how do they approach composition? The answers will teach you a lot about black and white photography and will help you understand which elements and scenes lend themselves to black and white and which are best avoided.

2 . Look for tonal contrast and texture

We touched on this in the previous suggestion, but I want to emphasize it here because it’s so important.

Tonal contrast may be the term used to describe variations in brightness between different parts of the image. Take the photo beneath as an example; the jetties are dark and the sky is a lot lighter. That is tonal contrast. And it looks incredible in black and white.

lighthouses out at sea in black and white

The alternative – lower tonal contrast – tends to look very mushy plus flat. Tones don’t separate out, key elements fade into one another, and the composition manages to lose impact. Remember: You can’t depend on changes in color to differentiate key elements, so it gets all about the tones.

Texture (and contrast between textures) is super helpful, as well. If you think about the elements that appear in landscape pictures – cliffs, rocks, lawn, trees, mountains, oceans, along with human-made objects like piers, jetties, and old barns – you’ll notice that they  all have distinct designs. Some feature rough, heavy textures, while others are extremely smooth.

Within the photo below, the arch, the cliffs in the range, and the rocks in the foreground  are all heavily textured. The ocean and the sky are much smoother. There is a strong contrast between the roughness of the rocks and the smoothness of the sea as well as the sky.

long exposure rock at sea

And thanks to that textural contrast, the photo is more impactful!

3 or more. Shoot in black and white mode

Did you know that your own digital camera can teach you to notice in black and white?

All you have to do is set it to its monochrome (monochrome) mode. Your camera’s rear LCD will show you the black and white Live View give food to – and if your camera includes an electronic viewfinder , it’ll turn black and white, too (you can literally look at the world in black and white – how cool is that? ).

As you can imagine, constantly looking at the world through a black and white LCD or viewfinder helps you see how black and white scenes are rendered. This particular, in turn, makes it easier to observe how a photo will turn out in black and white. And it’s also just far easier to create black and white shots in monochrome because you can see how tonal contrast, texture, lines, designs, patterns, and light can affect the landscape.

camera with black and white LCD

One note, even though: Don’t forget to set your camera to shoot in RAW . UNCOOKED files contain all the information taken by your camera’s sensor, which includes color – so if you determine you don’t like an image in black and white, you can always convert it to color plus process it that way rather.

4. Learn to use neutral density filter systems

Natural density filters are the secret weapon from the black and white landscape photographer. Get one (or more) of such accessories, and you’ll have the ability to capture jaw-dropping images away from wildest dreams.

(Am I exaggerating? Truthfully, I don’t think so. Fairly neutral density filters are a huge deal. )

But what makes ND filter systems so special?

ND filters are fundamentally dark pieces of glass that will go in front of your lens and prevent too much light through hitting your camera sensor. In other words, ND filters block out the light .

Now, as a landscape photographer without an ND filter, you’ll often be using a shutter speed in between 1/2s and 1/125s, supposing you’re shooting with a relatively narrow aperture of f/13 or so (which is generally an excellent idea).

Yet what if you want to increase your shutter speed for creative effect? By lengthening your shutter speed, you can blur drinking water, stretch clouds, and create all kinds of other cool effects that will look incredible (especially in black and white).

Unfortunately, in most situations, dropping the shutter speed beyond 1/2s roughly just can’t be done. The sunshine is too strong; if you give it a try, you’ll end up with an overexposed image.

Unless you have an item that can stop the light – such as a natural density filter! The ND filter keeps your digital camera from overexposing the scene even when you’re dealing with plenty of light. That way, you can get the particular stretchy clouds and fuzzy water that you’re right after.

For an illustration, check out the photos below. The first was taken at dusk with a shutter speed of 1/5s; slow enough to introduce some blur into the water, but not slow enough to really flatten out the water while making the clouds turn into interesting streaks:

relatively short seaside rock exposure

Then I added the neutral density filter  plus made the next photo using a shutter speed of 180 seconds. The water is completely blurry, and the clouds have shifted across the sky for a streaking effect:

long exposure black and white seaside landscape photo

Bottom line:

Neutral density filters give you control over your shutter velocity, which you can then use to boost your black and white landscapes.

5. Don’t just take photos like everyone else

Black and white landscape photographer Cole Thompson has an interesting concept. He practices what he or she calls “photographic abstinence, ” where he doesn’t look at the function of other photographers. The idea is that it enables him to find the landscape through his own eye without being influenced by some other people’s photos.

I’ve never taken this idea to its severe; I believe it’s important to research an area before you go to find the most photogenic parts. However the problem is that the most powerful images you see during your research tend to stick in your mind. The natural tendency is to want to produce similar images – which then end up looking like everybody else’s.

Resist this urge. Instead, take some black and white images that are really you .

Let me give you an example. A few years ago, We visited the Playa sobre las Catedrales (Cathedral Beach) in northern Spain. Look for it on Google or 500px, and most photos will look something like this, showing the cathedral-like arches for which the seaside is named:

arches in black and white

Anybody who visits the particular beach will naturally want to get photos of those arches. They are the reason the spot is famous, after all. But this can be a hindrance when it causes you to miss some other possibilities.

So after getting the rock arch photos (such as the shot displayed above), I really started looking . I saw a few rocks in the sea that will made an interesting minimalistic structure. I made the following photo:

long exposure rocks in water

This doesn’t feature the curve the beach is famous for. Yet it’s more personal in order to me  and was more satisfying to make.

6. Travel when you can

All the photos that I have demostrated you so far were used while traveling – and until you are lucky enough to live inside a breathtaking area, it’s likely that, like me, you need to visit find inspiring landscapes to photograph.

Even if you do live somewhere along with spectacular landscapes, you will need to travel to expand your experiences plus add depth to your portfolio. All my favorite landscape photos were taken while traveling, as well as the two activities really do move together very well – traveling is more interesting and interesting when there’s a purpose behind it, and landscape picture taking can give you that purpose.

Without travel, I might never have experienced and photographed places like this (taken within Bolivia):

mountain landscape

At the same time, I recognize that touring is costly and time-consuming. So even if you can’t journey, try to cultivate a vacationing mindset – where you view the world around you with new, new eyes. Tackle more familiar scenes with this newfound excitement (and you’ll become amazed by what you start to find out! ).

Monochrome landscape photography: final words and phrases

Hopefully, this article has given you plenty of helpful suggestions and tricks for black and white landscape photography.

So get outside. Provide black and white shooting a try! It is a new way of seeing the entire world – and one that can be a lot of fun.

Now over to you:

Are you experiencing any tips for black and white scenery photography? Share them in the comments below!

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