We’ve seen lots of editing trends come and go, but black & white portraits never go out of style. And it’s universally loved!
But not every photo can make a good black & white. Ok, good to know… but how do you know if a photo is going to make a good black & white?
This week’s highlights reel comprises 12 stunning B&W portraits from our grads. Read on to learn why some photos look amazeballs when edited in B&W, while others just look flat, dull and boring. Aaand some editing tips!
Generally speaking, there are three key elements your photo needs in order to make a beautiful black & white photo.
Either or all of them. If it has all, it will be especially stunning!
The word tone when used within the context of photos is a measure of the lightness and darkness of the colours. When we talk about the ‘tonal range’ of a photo, we’re referring to the pure blacks, pure whites, and everything in between, contained within a photo.
So when we say an image has good tonal range, we mean it has some blacks and whites, and tones in between. That doesn’t mean it has to be evenly spread. It could be mostly dark tones, with a pop of light. And vice versa. Or it could have mostly midtones (tones halfway between black and white) with a little black or white (or both) to give it depth.
The article below has a really great explanation about tone and tonal range which will change what you see through the viewfinder forever!
The following images are dark toned B&W’s. They would have mostly black and dark tones in the form of low key lighting, dark colours, with a little pop of high key light, or light coloured elements or clothing.
In this shot below, as well as being dark toned, it’s also a gorgeous macro shot! If you’re interested in learning how to use your macro lens on little faces, check out this article!
Related: Macro Newborn Photography Tips
This dramatic black & white portrait was created using natural light through a window or doorway, in a dark room. If you’re interested in exploring the topic of portrait lighting techniques, we dive deep into it on our Advanced Photography Course!
Related: Easy Dramatic Light Portraits
A light toned Black & white photo has mostly light tones, with a pop of dark tones to give it depth. In this shot below the background and the bub’s skin are all light tones, then it has some dark tones through his eyes and lips.
The following photos have a fairly even range of tones that spread across from black to white, and that range ensures depth and interest.
An image with only midtones and very little either side would be flat, and that’s something we always want to avoid! The concept of flat black & whites is talked about in more depth in this article.
If you have loads of texture in your photo, it will almost always revert beautifully to a stunning black & white.
This is especially easy to do in winter… think chunky knits, textured beanies, stripey socks, patterned clothing. Even this little one’s gorgeous curls add texture!
Texture can be found in the environment too. In Heidi’s photos below the timber around her adds texture which is especially noticeable when converted to B&W.
There are a few ways to add depth to your photos, and in addition to including a good range of tones, another easy way to add depth is to create a blurry blackground.
In Emma’s photo, light was hitting the foliage behind him, and by using a wide aperture she’s rendered that reflected light into beautiful bokeh which created texture and added loads of depth.
If you’ve ever used the greyscale or B&W button to create a black & white, you probably ended up with a flat B&W image. The reason for that, as you’ve learned now you’ve read this tutorial, is because there’s a lot more to a black & white image than simply a lack of colour.
So now you know what makes a stunning black & white photo, go through your images and look for one that fits the bill to convert beautifully, and try our 3 easy edits to create your own!
Related: 3 Easy B&W Photo Edits
WATCH VIDEO: Why I love these photos…
Join our FREE Mini Photography Course
Learn how to take photos you LOVE
5 Days = 5 Video Lessons
Join the Fun + Take Gorgeous Photos
Our 8 Week Enthusiast Photography Course is starting again SOON! You'll learn how to get the most from your DSLR & take photos you LOVE!