March 31, 2021

What makes a good black and white image | Burke, VA Family Photographer

Sometimes during a family or Senior session when I’m clicking the shutter I already know it will be a great black and white. Often the image might even look better with the lack of color! But what am I looking for exactly? Below are three things that make a good black and white image and a couple examples of bad black and white images.

ONE. Good highlights on the subject. 

The best light must be on the subject. In a black and white image, the brightest part of the image is called out the most. If a lake in the background, for example, is white then your eye goes there first and not on the subject. Lighting on the subject can be dramatic like in the last image here where the background falls off to black quickly. Or lighting on the subject can be soft and even, like in the first image below, but notice that the highlight is still on the family.

TWO. Black and white images bring out the emotion of an image. 

There is something about removing the color that puts the limelight on the connection and emotion of the moment. In the examples below you can try it out for yourself – look at the color image and then the black and white. I love them both, but for different reasons! Often when the color is taken out then there are less distractions to your eye. Let’s say someone had bright red socks on. In color that would be the first thing you see, but in black and white they practically disappear.

THREE.  Great texture can be lovely in black and white. 

As long as the best light is on the subject, then details in your image can be called out nicely when converted to grayscale. At all of my Northern Virginia locations I love all the textures that nature offers and it looks fascinating in black and white. I think it brings a whole new and interesting look to your image. 

Here are some examples of images that do NOT convert well to black and white. You can see that when the highlight is on anything but the subject then it just doesn’t work. It’s distracting and almost confusing!

Train your eye to see in black and white and remember that practice makes progress! Just keep clicking that shutter.