Black and white seemed much easier to SEE in when I used to photograph with film.

Why? Because you knew it was just that simple. Black. White. There was no option for using the color version, no editing to create the color version (not without a lot of work anyway).

black and white

What to look for when creating black and white images

There are some very basic things to be aware of when you are creating images to convert to black and white. (Or if you still use black and white film.)

See shapes

The colors can be distractions in an image. If you’re creating a photo that is about the texture of a scene, colors will take away from that most of the time. By removing the color and creating in black and white you are much more aware of the textures and details in that shot.

black and white

When you approach a subject or a scene pay attention to what shapes you see. Are there big spaces of something round or large triangular shapes? By removing color from the area (use your imagination) you’ll see that there are usually big shapes either created by the objects themselves or by the light and shadows in that space.

See shadows (and light)

Speaking of the light and shadows, there are not likely any other elements that are as important as these two are when creating these images. Look to see which direction the light is coming from, how it covers an object, what the light does to that object and then what shadows are cast by that object.

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The Chair

See the contrast in black and white

Check out the levels of contrast where you are photographing. Are they harsh and fine-edged light vs. dark? Or, are they smooth transitions with many levels of white to gray to black?

The amount of contrast in your image will give the viewer certain feelings when viewing it. Think about how you feel when you see a very contrasty image. It becomes almost graphical. Then on the other side of that when you have soft grays and layers of different shades of light to dark, it’s a much softer feeling and look.


It can take a while to learn to SEE in black and white. Colors tend to grab our attention and it’s sometimes hard to NOT see them. Keep practicing. Go out with the intention of only creating black and white images. If your camera allows it switch it so you can see the screen as B&W only. If you use RAW settings your images will upload as color, don’t be alarmed. Set your camera to save JPEG + RAW and it will save both versions.

Look for all the elements that make a good image in the first place, then visualize if that particular scene will work without color.

I’d love to see what you create. Share here in the comments or in the Photofocus Community. Let’s see those black and white images.