I love black and white prints. I still make them using digital processes. I shot mostly black and white film back in the days when I did shoot film. But for me, not every subject lends itself to being photographed in black and white, i.e., rainbows, fireworks, etc. When you’re shooting things that are very colorful, or when color is the main subject, you might want to stay away from black and white.
On the other hand, there are some things that almost always look good in black and white to me. One of those is architecture. This series of shots was made in San Francisco. I shot with black and white prints in mind. I looked for repeating themes, iteration, sharp angles, interesting geometric patterns and I shot when the light was fairly high in the sky. I wanted deep contrast.
One thing that doesn’t work for me anyway, is shooting black and white images in flat light. They always look boring and uninteresting. When shooting black and white in high contrast, the interplay between light and shadows, may become the subject. Remember, shadows are as important as anything else in the photo. Light illuminates, shadow defines. (Yes there are exceptions to every rule – this is just a generalization for the purpose of this post.)
As you walk around your town, practice this. Look for the things I mentioned above and shoot with a final black and white image in mind.
Here’s a bonus tip. Most modern digital compact cameras, and even some DSLRs have a black and white or monochrome mode. I do NOT recommend shooting in this mode. I prefer to shoot in RAW and convert to B&W. This gives me the most information to work with. But I do sometimes switch the camera in to B&W mode to help me “see” the tonal relationships better. I then switch back to make the shot. Give it a try.
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