Bold B&W images are some of my favorite types of photography to create and deliver to my wedding clients. I love everything about them – the feel they give, the way they easily eliminate distractions, bring out the emotion in an image, and evoke a nod to an earlier time. A common misconception about black and white photos these days, however, is that it all happens in Lightroom or Photoshop after the fact, you just click a button to run a preset or action, and you have finished. As a photographer, I think the thought process you go through before shooting when planning, during shooting while shooting, and after shooting during editing is critical to achieving the look you want and create iconic and bold B&W images.
For example, if you want bold, high-contrast black and white, it could be as simple as educating your clients ahead of time about which colors suit your photography style and vision. Certain shades of red and pastel colors often don’t translate well to black and white because they appear as different shades of gray and often look muddy. On the wedding day, I know if a groom wears a gray suit, I won’t be able to achieve the rich look I love for black and white photos in the same way as if he wore a black or navy tuxedo. . because I won’t have the contrast of a dark color on the bride’s white dress. Considering the colors of what I’m photographing helps me set my expectations when editing and helps me understand why photos may not look the way I want them to look in black and white.
[Read: Beauty in Black and White: How to Find a Tonal Balance with Different Types of Light]
During a photo shoot or a wedding, I also constantly evaluate the light in which I place my couples – from which direction it comes, if it is diffused, on what it is reflected – because I know that the type of light that I choose to have an impact on the appearance of my black and white photos. Although I like to shoot in the shade, I know it often doesn’t produce the best black and white images because there isn’t much contrast with the lighting. It’s more of a flat light. On the contrary, if we have clear, sunny skies on the day of the wedding and I backlight my couple, the shadows from the sun and the quality of the light will help produce a bold black and white with high contrast that pops.
My favorite type of light for photographing B&W is directional light; I often use the light that enters through a window. This type of lighting is very flattering and easily brings out highlights and shadows when it falls on a subject and gives your images plenty of depth and dimension. I especially like it for photographing a solo bride – it beautifully illuminates all the details of the wedding dress and draws attention to them. This is also a good strategy to use for couples if they don’t have dark colors in their outfits and you still want to create high contrast black and white for them. You can use Dimensional Light to create the dark colors you need for bold editing by using the shadows it creates as the black color in the image.
[Read: How to Photograph Natural Light Morning to Night]
Once your photoshoot or wedding is complete and you integrate your footage into your editing software, that’s when all the pieces of your intentional thought process come together and you can create a black image. and white that really shines. One of the most important aspects of creating a bold, high contrast black and white image is having a pure white point and a pure black point in the image. In Lightroom, this can be achieved by adjusting the tone curves or sliders until you can see the up arrows in the upper corners of your histogram turn white. If you are missing a pure white point, you can adjust the highlights or the white scrollbar until it appears. For a pure black point, you can adjust the shadows and the black slider. The exposure, contrast, and clarity sliders can also impact white and black points. I therefore recommend that you play with the different sliders and see their impact on your image. Once you have a combination you like, save it as a base preset to help you achieve the look consistently.
Just like the color photographs you capture and the care you take to get the tones just right, your black and white photos should be created with the same intention and attention to detail for the most impact and the greatest number. audacious B&W images!
Jennifer Boris, a 2021 Rangefinder 30 rising star, resides in Detroit, Michigan and is known for her cinematic black and white chiaroscuro photography. She enjoys capturing moments with impactful composition and emotion while continuously creating timeless memories for her clients.