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How to Succeed in Black and White Portrait Photography

Design , Black and White , Portrait • 23 April 2018

What to consider, doing black and white images?

Let us admit that our life is full of colors. But is it true that real emotions do not all these shades and tones? If your response is ‘yes’ than, probably this article will be useful for you.

First of all in the very beginning you should think of a sense of colors. Some experts may say that color helps to involve additional impression to professional portrait photography.

Consider that this hard work require much attention to a natural light. You have to change the contrast or sharpness, as well as skin tones and eyeshine. You should play with any part of the process, because everything depends on your professional skills and talent.

Start with the place and location, which helps to demonstrate advantages of both you and camera options.

Some movement can be an interesting trick

Ask your model to make some movements and do not forget to adjust settings of your camera.

Who said that portraits are all about standing or sitting people?

Moving objects around or moving person can become even a better picture, reflecting its personality. Try focusing not only on face, but hands of a baker or legs of a dancer.

There is nothing more exciting and beautiful than unique features of each individual. Something that makes us special and different from each other. Light soft movements will become an elegant element. Such detail can easily personalize each image and tell the story you are filming.

Try to capture only natural looks without theatrical roles and artificial expressions.

Black and white portrait photography

It is possible to make a high-quality picture, both outdoors and indoors. Any kind of weather can permit a great effect on your pictures. Moreover, rainy or cloudy day will enrich the moment with its unique contrast and effects.

The main task in this case is not only construction of composition of a frame and selection of correct exposure, but also search of hidden conversation, which can help your ‘model’ to relax and enjoy the process, removing masks and revealing own soul.

Maybe it is better to choose some accessories and items to create necessary atmosphere. Or just try to go for a walk capturing the person in natural movement and routine, brushing hair or talking on the phone.

Nothing else can help you to discover the inside world of an individual, than everyday activities. Sometimes feeling yourself as a stalker can give you that perfect image and portrait look you are looking for.

Photography tips to exclude disturbing subjects

Avoid additional objects in the picture to concentrate on the protagonist

It is important to keep in mind that you have only three colors in your disposal: black, gray and white. On the one hand, this fact simplifies selection of a background, because viewers will not be distracted by bright colorful spots.

However, the viewer's eye will cling to each detail. For example, if the photoset is outdoors, people around, cars and even a flying bird can become such an annoying element.

Outside the studio a place should exclude any undesirable and disturbing details. A good background can be a brick or any other wall, high and wide stairs, trunk of an old tree, etc.

Shooting? Only in raw

RAW format can surprise you with its numerous possibilities

It is obvious that RAW files has huge number pros to be considered as one of the most important aspects of photography ideas. Among the main advantages:

  • High quality of a picture;
  • Simple processing compared to JPEG;
  • Better results after printing;
  • More possibilities for client’s satisfaction.

Looking at a colorful image, our brain immediately recognizes and identifies elements of the frame according to already stored images. And this means that we often see not a picture, but its interpretation offered by the brain. Texture and relief add a frame of realism, depth, it helps the viewer to perceive in details and only RAW can give you these elements.

Choose the right light source

Just leave the stress and dream

Do not ever forget about light, because it is one of your tools, which give a wide range of possibilities to play with it. Street or studio, home or office can provide various types of lamps and shadows, which will help you to emphasize the detail you are focused on. However, best black and white portraits can be made, of course, in a studio.

Try to provide dark background, high-quality lighting, opportunity for the model to completely open, sitting at a small coffee table in a comfortable armchair or barchair. If necessary, you can also include sad, but beautiful music.

Monochrome images of people are often associated with something sad, so do not ask a posing person to portray fun or happiness. The idea of sadness and tranquility should be a white thread during the filming process.

Black and white portrait emotions

Nice memories and good mood are essential

If you need real emotions, ask models to remember their carefree childhood, when they were young, running with friends for fishing, sunbathing on the beach, having fun in a backyard and NOT ROUTINE PROBLEMS.

You can suggest recalling an interesting event that occurred to their family in childhood or talk about parents.

Why not to remember a joke and laugh together expressing natural feelings and face expressions?

All these tricks will make the black and white photography as true as possible. You can maximally brightly and accurately convey to a viewer a full range of emotions and character.

Get closer

Do not be afraid to face the face

Many professionals mistakenly consider that wide angle cameras can give more possibilities to capture the right expression.

The fact is, that focusing on background you may lose your model, permitting participation of other objects in the picture.

Leave your wide angle for a street landscape and urban views. Concentrate on the person you are looking at and discover his/her inner world, trying to catch the right instant.

Everything you need to do is to get closer to the face you are picturing and try to capture the smallest facial movements.

Camera settings are crucial

Lens, shutter speed and other setting to take into consideration

Planning your final result, think of ISO. Noise from high ISO values ​​will be very noticeable, although occasionally it can create a film grain effect. In general, expressive look on the contrary can be achieved with a high contrast of light and shadows. The basis is a combination of light and darkness in the frame.

It is better to use sharper lens with a fixed focal length. The diaphragm should be set to F-5,6-8, so that the entire area of ​​a face, beginning from a nose tip and ending with ears, could get into a sharpness zone.

There are plenty of tips to give on shutter speed, but it is better to adjust it according to situation. Just set your camera, and try working with initial settings to understand where you need to move and what you have to change.

It will definitely depend on the camera you are using and results to achieve.

Color photos are not in fashion

Forget about colors and get the best

Color has almost no practical value for facial features, revealing character and emotions.

In a place with poor light people appear equally in gray color, which does not prevent us from recognizing facial expressions and emotions even in twilight, when our eyes almost do not distinguish colors.

Removing colors, you add volume and emphasis on the shape, because color often distracts and can oversaturate, interfering with correct perception. Form and size become more obvious in the absence of color. When looking for a good frame, it is worth abstracting from colors, instead, it's better to focus on a shape.

Black and white portraiture

The only win-win option for professionals

Applying light filters and films of different chromatic sensitivity in the analog process, you can change the brightness of lips or eyes of your model, comparing to overall tonality of a face.

You need to use expressive means — shades of gray and contrast. Use contrast to distinguish and identify objects in your scene. With the help of contrast, you can point to the composition center of the image — for example, by placing a dark object on a light background, and also to add depths due to different tones and hues.

Possibilities of black and white photography allow you to effectively accent various parts of a face, changing sensitivity.

Dodging and burning in a modern world

Old school is always on top

It may seem that some ancient tools to add effects are lost, but it is not true. This simple method of burning and dodging the image, created in old darkroom, is widely used nowadays.

It is undoubtedly one of the most common ways to get the following results:

  • shadows or lights to some parts of the portrait;
  • emphasizing details with light;
  • attraction attention of the viewer to the part you prefer;
  • avoiding distraction, isolating the model.

Add new trends to portrait photography

Get yourself a new job and new portrait

None can tell you what is the best way to work on this or that subject on the street or in your studio.

You may go out and look for interesting personalities in the city or just make yourself a new star to add to your successful shots. If you are just making first steps in black and white self-photography, feel free to practice whenever and wherever you want, because you are the only viewer and the model.

Get you best pose and, who knows, you may become a best selling portrait online.

Is there much to do in post process?

Start with preparation in advance to reduce post processing routine

Well, it is about your wish to get specific effects on portraits you are making.

Modern cameras allow you to see the final picture immediately. Usually it is recommended to have several images of the same pose or emotion, to be sure that you have captured the right movement and process it later.

So, you just add more or less contrast, vignette or sharpness and here it is — your artistic view of the model!

Summing up ideas of black and white photos

Learn all pros and cons before

It is necessary to admit that existence of editing and retouching programs and applications can definitely ease the work on processing and correcting mistakes with adjustment layers.

However good ideas and important tips to remember should never be neglected.

Nowadays everyone can try to be a new portrait guru, but there is always something to learn and improve. That is why, enjoy your work and keep in mind the above mentioned advice, so you will not need to search for other inspiration and urgent help online.

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