In the upcoming months I’m going to do several “courses,” and each will address a different subject over a few weeks. The first course is Black and White Photography. Yay!

Black and white photos can be some of the most beautiful images in your repertoire. I confess that I almost never consider black and white as an option. As I prepared to write up this tutorial, I realized what a shame that was – B&W photos are gorgeous and the ones I took this week are some of my favorites ever!

My first tip will seem totally counter-intuitive – shoot in color. Many point and shoot digital cameras come with a black and white mode. It can be handy to see what your photo will look like before you take it, but I advise against this. My reasoning is simple – you can always take color out of a photo, but you can’t put color into a photo that never had it. Even if you are 100% certain that you’re only going to use the B&W version of the photo, don’t take away your color option. Next week, I’m going to show you how to change your color photos into B&W beauties.

Because you can’t count on color to make your photos interesting, you really have to rely on the other aspects of taking photos: composition, lighting, and orientation. B&W photos rely on well-composed shots, so make sure you take your time putting together your picture. Lighting is SO IMPORTANT – the more contrast in the photo, the more eye-catching the photo will look.

The key to any successful photo is to pick the right subject. I personally LOVE portraits for black and white photography. Instead of getting lost in skin tones and eye color, I am drawn to cheekbones, mouth shape, and eyelashes. Here are a few I took this morning of my daughter that I love:


If this photo was in color, I’d be distracted by the bright colors of her blanket. But in black and white, the eyelashes are the focus, just as I intended.


Her eyes – look how they shine!


I put Annie in the right third of this photo to add visual interest, and I really think that’s what makes the photo work.

All those photos were taken originally in color. I used simple editing software to flip the image to black and white – and I’ll teach you how to do that next week. This week, think about composition and lighting before you press the shutter button. Any questions? Let me know.

See you next week for Black And White Photography 102: Editing!