How to master black and white photography

It's not all black and white

Try a graphic composition

Black and white photography graphic compositions

Simple shapes and a strong composition virtually guarantee striking black-and-white images. With their straight lines and dramatic angles, man-made structures are ideal for this type of shot, although for more organic shapes you can also try working with trees, rocks or foliage.

To make the most of graphic shapes, try to make your composition as simple as possible. Keep an eye out for plain backgrounds, and try shooting with the subject at an angle.

With their straight lines and dramatic angles, man-made structures are ideal

For the shot above we chose a composition that avoided including as much of the surrounding architecture and street furniture as possible, with striking results.

High-contrast lighting can really help to enhance graphic shapes, so make the most of strong side lighting from the sun. If you're using your own lighting, position a single light to one side of the subject.

Strong, direct light creates crisp shadows, which make graphic subjects in their own right.

Here, a slow shutter speed of 30 secs has made the dark sky even more dramatic

Filter tips

Traditional coloured filters used for black-and-white film aren’t suitable for digital cameras, but you can still boost the contrast in your graphic black-and-white shots by using a polariser. By rotating the filter you’ll be able to darken blue skies, making lighter objects such as buildings or clouds stand out more clearly. 

The polariser will also remove reflections from non-metallic objects such as glass or water, which helps to produce more graphic image.

Try this... minimalist mono

One of the most popular ways to get simple graphic images is to use long exposures. This technique, used either after dark or with a strong ND filter, will render water and clouds as a smooth, soft  blur, focusing all the attention on fixed objects in the frame. Use a tripod and expose for 5 secs or longer.