How to master black and white photography

Learn how to shoot stunning mono photographs

Add essential mood and drama

Although it’s relatively simple to give any image the black-and-white treatment, creating the kind of dramatic, moody black and white images you see in the portfolios of many a pro is all about choosing the right subject, getting the lighting  right and making subtle but effective adjustments post-shoot. When it comes to the right subject, you should look out for scenes that are packed with plenty of texture and detail, along with strong graphic elements.

Shooting secrets

It’s always best to capture as much detail as possible in your original image. We used a soft-edged ND grad filter to prevent the sky from becoming over-exposed. 

The lighting needs to lend itself to the style of image. Dark skies are ideal, especially if they are combined with sunlight on foreground subjects to create maximum contrast. But any situation where you can capture plenty of detail in the sky and some contrast in the foreground will do; you may just have to work a little harder on your adjustments to add the atmosphere you need. 

The Photoshop techniques you’ll need to use on shots like this aren’t difficult, using Dodge and Burn tools to selectively lighten and darken the image, as well as local contrast adjustments on Curves adjustment layers. 

Conversion tips

If you're working with raw files though, you can adjust files non-destructively in either Lightroom or in Photoshop's Adobe Camera Raw interface (or any other raw converter for that matter). 

The Adjustment Brush delivers the most control for localized adjustments, allowing you the ability to tweak specific areas of the image - great for lifting shadows and recovering highlights.