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The Magic of Monochrome: Perfecting the Art of Black and White Photography

We live in a colourful world. Yet, colours can distract you away from the essentials of a great photo – texture, tonal contrast, shape, form and lighting. To master the art of black and white photography, you should learn how to balance all these elements to create a memorable image. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Canon EOS 6D, EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM, f/5.6, 1/160 sec, ISO 100

Visualise in black and white

When it comes to shooting in black and white, it helps to look out for strong lines, shadows, and shapes. As you’re shooting, imagine how your final shot will look like. Look beyond the colours; picture how the image’s shapes, textures and tones will be captured. It takes practice 
to hone this vision so get out there and get shooting. 

Canon EOS 6D, EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM, f/5.6, 1/160 sec, ISO 100

Think about composition

The next time you’re looking for a subject to shoot in black and white, pay close attention to elements like texture, line, shape, and tonal contrast. Textures look best in black and white, but be sure to shoot during the golden hour of light to enhance it. Tonal contrast is about finding the right balance between the lighter shades and darker tones of grey. When all these elements come together in your photo, you might be on to a pretty great shot.

Canon EOS 6D, EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM, f/5.6, 1/160 sec, ISO 100


Shoot in RAW mode if your camera allows that function, as RAW files contain all the colour information from a shot, giving you more control of the image’s appearance. You’ll also be able to change your mind later if the photo didn’t turn out as great in black and white as you had hoped. You might just be surprised at what you can achieve during the post-production stage.

Canon EOS 70D, EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM, f/3.5, 1/160 sec, ISO 100 by Darren Wong

Go low on ISO

Use the lowest ISO possible. When it comes to black and white photos, images with noise become even more obvious. Noise makes your photos look grainy and not as smooth as you’d like. It’s harder to edit out the noise, but if you prefer this effect, you can always choose to add it later in post production.

Canon EOS 6D, EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM, f/5.6, 1/160 sec, ISO 100

Get moody 

Dark and gloomy days, a nightmare for photographers who shoot in colour, can actually be the best time for black and white photos. The trick is to ensure the light suits the subject. Light at noon, for example, can be great for architecture but poor for portraiture. An overcast day might be great for taking portraits, but unsuitable for landscapes.

Canon EOS 6D, EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM, f/5.6, 1/160 sec, ISO 100

Subject matter

One of the many reasons why photographers love black and white is its versatility. It gives the photographer freedom to shoot across various subjects. Good subjects to get you started on monochrome photography include portraits, landscapes, architecture, travel and street photography.

Canon EOS 70D, EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM, f/2.8, 1/8 sec, ISO 2500 by Darren Wong

Images are shot with Canon EOS 6D; EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM and Canon EOS 70D, EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM


EOS 6D (Body)

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Azmin Zainal
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Azmin Zainal has been in love with the written word ever since she could well, read. Relatively new to all things digital, so show her some love. Still searching for the meaning of life, whatever that is. Loves coffee, good conversations, fried chicken and Roger Federer. Not necessarily in that order.