A black and white aesthetic in photography is universal and timeless. And one thing we at Click Love Grow love most about it is you can render pretty much any subject extraordinary, just by capturing it in monochrome.
Alice Mariette is a CLG Advanced Grad, former Instructor and an award-winning photographer we’re proud to have in our community. She’s best known for recording snippets of her daily life in dreamy imagery that showcases shape, lines, light and shadow in a way that hints at a gentle artist’s soul.
Oh, and we’re a little bit jealous of her seemingly endless supply of creative ideas! Today Alice is sharing some of her secrets, so you can embark on a creative project in monochrome! Read on…
When it comes to capturing mood in pictures, nothing goes past a delicious black and white aesthetic. Don’t get me wrong, I love colour. It calls to me, and most of my work is in colour, but sometimes it just doesn’t capture the mood I am after or do justice to the scene before my eyes. So on those occasions, I will edit my image in black and white.
Read on to learn what kind of subjects look great in monochrome and why!
Perfectly formed raindrops glistening in the light come to life in a dramatic black and white edit.
When shooting, aim to get in as close as possible — use a macro lens if you have one. Angle the camera so that you are looking across at the drops, helping them stand out against the background.
If you can position yourself so that the background is as plain and dark as possible, even better, as this will make the drops stand out even more.
It also helps if you find drops that are in a line, as you will be able to get them all in focus with a wide aperture — making the shot more dramatic. This was shot at f/6.3, which probably doesn’t sound very wide. But when shooting this close, you have a much smaller depth of field than normal, and that’s even more so when using a macro lens.
You can see in both of these pictures that the catchlights really stand out in black and white. Increase your contrast quite a lot in the edit and brush a little bit of exposure and clarity onto the drops to make the aesthetic pop even more.
The feather shot lends itself well to the black and white aesthetic due to the way the white feather stands out against the very dark background. In a shot like this, find a small light pocket and place the feather in it. Expose the highlights on the feather, and the background will fall into darkness, making the feather pop.
Here the raindrops were tiny and covered the feather completely, so I chose to use a very wide aperture to capture just a thin slice of focus while creating a sparkly bokeh from the rest of the drops. I used a brush to add some clarity and exposure to the in-focus area to make it stand out a bit more in the image.
I LOVE dreamy macro floral shots, with golden yellow bokeh in the background, and I usually edit them in colour. However, I’ve found that black and white edits can often create a much moodier image that is very reminiscent of film.
The following two images are very soft and dreamy with a gentler, less contrasty edit than I would usually do. However, I think that both images suit that look. You could even play with a slightly matte finish with shots like this.
When you come across a scene with very strong lines and shapes, the aesthetic will often look really great in black and white. Removing colour takes away anything else that might compete for the viewer’s attention and really isolates the lines.
I find this works best with pictures with a lot of contrast, with black blacks and white whites, as you can see in the carpark shot and the shadow flower image. Both have almost blown highlights and some clipped black areas, but that just adds to the mood.
To really accentuate the shadows, expose for the highlights until they’re only just under being blown.
When capturing a scene like the carpark shot, shoot standing straight on to the shadows for best definition. If you shoot from an angle, the fall away in your depth of field would minimise the shadow definition and, therefore, result in a less dramatic image.
This flower shot is a little less contrasty, but the eye still goes straight to the curved lines of the petals in the middle. If this were edited in colour, the eye would naturally be drawn to the stamen as they’re red. Don’t be afraid in shots like these to really increase the contrast and clarity when editing to bring out the detail and add drama.
This image I took of my reflection in a creek wasn’t anything fantastic in colour. But there was something in the mottled shadows of the trees in the water that drew me to want to keep it. The colours were quite muted — lots of browns, greys and muted greens, none of which brought much to the image. That’s why I decided to try it with a black and white aesthetic and, instantly, it took on a different mood.
It reminds me of a painting and I love the way the line of the rocks on the right are accentuated. The different lines take your eye all around the image, with some leading straight to my shadow. Additionally, the subtle ripples in the water add texture, which is a key element of great black and white photos.
So, if you have a shot that you’re almost going to delete, play with it in black and white before you do, as you may just create something you like.
Try shooting something like this on or around f/5.6 to capture more texture and detail. By exposing the highlights to be almost a mid-tone, it conveys a moody feel.
Related: 12 Stunning Black & White Portraits
Big thank you to Alice for your words and inspiring black and white aesthetic images! If you want to check out more of her work — and get more inspo than you ever thought possible! — you can find her here.