Black and White Photography Tips – How to Take Great Black and White Photos

These black and white photography tips will help you to recognize good black and white (b&w) photo subjects and to be able to photograph and edit these for the best effects.

The reason so many photography courses and schools teach b&w photography early on is that it is an excellent way to train the eye to recognize what makes a striking composition.

As amazingly beautiful as a colorful sky may be, it is the lines, shapes and curves that move the eye through the photo. So while the colors can be quite beautiful, black and white makes the photo more dynamic.

In spite of its attributes, after the media went full color in the 70’s and 80’s b&w photography faded. It soon became increasingly more challenging to find places that sold and processed black and white film. Now thanks to digital cameras and photo editing software, black and white photography is back!

How to Recognize Great Black and White Pictures

Although choosing the best subjects is very subjective, many professional photographers will agree that the following types of compositions beg for black and white:

  • Photos that convey strong emotion. Color can be a distraction, while black & white lends power to the feeling expressed.
  • Images lacking a full spectrum of colors; for example, a city scape or Ansel Adam’s Yosemite “Moon and Half Dome.”
  • Low contrast images such as photographs shot on dark overcast days.
  • Any subject with the lines, contours, shadows and curves that you just know will look great in black and white. How can you tell? By getting familiar with a variety of images! Just look online for “Ansel Adams.” Or search for “famous black and photos.”
  • Look at B&W photography books at the library. There are many places to appreciate and learn this artful form of photography!

Create Black & White Photography with a Photo Editor

If upon seeing a subject, you know it’s got to be a black and white photo, then you could set your camera to B &W and take the picture. But once you get experience with using your photo editing software, you’ll find that you can create even better images by shooting in color first and then desaturating it in the editor. Another added benefit to this method is that you’ll never accidentally take a day’s worth of pictures in black and white because you forgot to reset the camera!

Check Your Camera’s White Balance

While the easiest and simplest way to use your photo editor to change a color image to black and white is to desaturate the colors, this method doesn’t allow you to control how the primary colors work together to produce a grayscale brightness. If you have good white balance in your picture, then simple desaturation may be all you need to do in the software editor.

Make Use of Your Photo Editor’s Color Swatches

By using a photo editor, you can also apply color swatches. Even though there are no colorful tones in black and whites, there are still tones created by colors. Color swatches work much the same way as color lenses do on an SLR camera. For instance, camera filters in the yellow to orange range look great with skin tones while green adds wonderful natural tones to outdoors pictures.

And last but not least, don’t forget to share your favorite b&w photographs. Beautiful black and white photos deserve to be framed for all to see. Choose frames that showcase rather than distract from your black and whites with simple clean lines. Hopefully, this article has inspired you to take more black and white photographs!

Photo Software – Which Do I Need For My Photo Editing Tasks? – Help!

Photo editing software or photo software allows you to create and modify bitmap graphics and photographic images. Photo programs can be used for tasks such as painting and drawing, colour correction, enhancement of photos, creating special effects, conversion of images from one type to another, adding text to graphics etc. Some of the most popular software tools available today include Irfan View, Photoshop elements, Photoshops’ CS suites and Aperture for Apple Mac: as well as Gimp and Inkscape – open source alternatives.

IrfanView is a piece of photo software that lets you open and edit images. If offers an exhaustive list of advantages and features such as speed, a compact image viewer, being simple to use especially for beginners, support for many media formats including multimedia, multi-language support, thumbnail option, options for painting and very controllable slideshows. Moreover it is free for individual use and is very user-friendly in terms of the GUI it presents to the user.

The major disadvantage, is that it does not offer some of the very advanced imaging capabilities and also it is not available natively on the Mac. Among the photo programs, it is an excellent choice for people who need to work quickly, avoid a very steep learning curve and simply want to balance, crop and save an image for the next step in their work. It probably isn’t a good choice for a professional photographer, except as a very quick form of software photo editing.

Photoshop Elements is an adaptation of Adobe Photoshop and is available for as low a price as USD $99. Nevertheless, it has a strong set of software tools. The user interface is simpler than Photoshop while retaining the core photo editing functions. Thus Photoshop Elements is like a scaled down version of PhotoShop. It focuses on digital photography and on an RGB workflow. Some of the more complex photo editing features such as Curves, Channel Mixer, and Color Balance have been disabled, making the GUI more manageable, with a friendlier learning curve. The major advantages of Photoshop Elements include: an easy GUI structure to navigate and that it is cheaper than Photoshop. The only disadvantage is that some of the higher-end features are removed.

Adobe Photoshop CS is a set of software programs for image editing that is considered to be the industry standard for graphics professionals. Although meant for professionals, it is also available for students at a fraction of the original cost. The main features of Photoshop as a photo editor, are the flexibilities it offers for media creation, editing and authoring. The file format is compatible with any of the individual programs that are available in the suite. As the de facto king of the photo programs, it has many tools for advanced photo editing, including a bewildering array of special effects services. The disadvantages of this suite of photo editing programs include: features you will never use; highly expensive and it takes massive processing power from the computer system.

Aperture is Apple Mac photo editing software. The Mac enthusiasts claim its advantages are; that it includes an all in one Inspector to consolidate the projects, adjustment panes, quick image search, accelerated performance, advanced photo editing capabilities such as superb color fidelity, etc. The disadvantage of Aperture is that it can be used only on Mac operating systems. Among the photographers that I know personally, this photo software is growing in stature amongst popular photo editing programs.

The Open Source movement is also muscling in on the act with Gimp (which is gaining recognition amongst photo editing programs) and Inkscape; (a vector drawing program) which is very good indeed for developing plans, maps and other graphics that need to be drawn. I haven’t yet got to grips with Gimp as a photo editor, but I have used Inkscape regularly over the last year and it is a fully featured graphics software. I recommend that you give these new open source graphic softwares a good look before spending hundreds on Photoshop or Aperture photo software. In terms of value for money; like Irfan View, they are incomparable. Amonst the paid for photo editing programs, Photoshop Elements is going to be a more than adequate for anything that you need to do for the web unless you are going down the road of becoming career graphic designers. For these individuals and for professional photographers the photo programs of choice will almost certainly be Photoshop CS for PC based workers and Aperture if you are on the Mac platform.

Letters To The Editor: What Editors Really Want To Buy

Have you ever seen something in a newspaper and felt the urge to write to the editor about it?

You know, a kind of ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ type piece?

Well, if you have, you could turn that enthusiasm into a very simple way to make money from writing…. by writing letters to the editor. Because writing letters is one of the simplest ways to make money from writing there is.

Actually, you might not know it but the editors of most newspapers and magazines are pretty desperate for letters to the editor and will be glad if you write to them!

(And here’s an interesting fact for you. Apparently the term dates back to the 1950s. The editor of the Tunbridge Wells Advertiser was so desperate for readers’ letters that he asked his staff to write in. Horrified at having to do this and not wanting to reveal their real name for obvious reasons one simply signed his letter ‘Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells’!)

If you do want to make some cash by writing letters to the editor there is a bit of a strategy to it….

Firstly, don’t send letters out willy-nilly. Research each publication’s requirements for letters to the editor and write accordingly. Start with magazines and newspapers you read yourself, so you can see exactly what’s needed. (Not all publications pay for letters to the editor so, obviously, check that they do before sending anything!)

Send the type of letter that the editor is looking for. For example, is the tone of the letters that are published mainly serious or humorous or whatever? If that’s the usual type of letter used make sure you follow that style.

Also, many newspapers and especially magazines have a special theme for letters they like to publish. Such as a ‘tip of the week’, ‘my real life story’, ‘a funny thing happened to me’ and so on. If it’s a serious newspaper they might be looking for political letters, or travel letters, or sports-related letters. You’ll obviously stand a better chance of getting published if you follow that theme.

If you’re writing in response to something that’s recently been published, even better.

One thing…. not many editors are looking for really vitriolic, vent-your-spleen type letters. Middle of the road letters tend to be sought after. So although it’s good if you’re passionate about what you’re writing on keep everything fairly civil and good-natured.

A few tips on length: Letters to the editor, ironically, aren’t usually edited. You should try to write a letter that editors can just cut and paste into the page. And keep them concise. Many editors like letters under 100 words and have very little use for letters over 300 words.

One more tip. A growing number of newspapers and especially magazines are also looking for photos to go with letters they publish. This might be a photo of you or something related to your letter. You know the sort of thing…. Are You Being Framed style photos of your cat chasing a Rottweiler and so on. Always try to include a photo if they publish them, as you can make twice as much money in some cases. (In fact, have a look through your photo albums. If you have any photos that you could write a letter around that’s a very easy way to get started.)

If you find a publication that likes your letters then write more letters to them from time to time. They’ll usually be glad to keep paying you if your letters are good.