Andy Hawthorne

Andy Hawthorne

Projects, photos and running

10 May 2020

Photographing in Black and White

Reading time: 3 minute(s) - 500 words

Photographing in Black and White

Black and white photos are powerful when done well. The trick is doing them well by changing the way you see things.

Yes, shooting photos intended for black and white (or grey scale) needs the photographer to see things in a new way.

Colour photos are closer to what our eyes see. But black and white is also closer than you’d think. But for a different reason.

Greyscale is all about shade, shape and form. Patterns and tone, too. And when you train your eyes to see those elements, you’ll see the world a different way.

Once you start to see like that, the photographic opportunities open up in a big way.

The main photo was taken in October, 2019. It’s on the seafront at Milford in Dorset. The weather was grey, windy and about to rain. But I was seeing something more.

The strong lines of the path leading through the photo, the detail in the sky and the light reflected on the sea. I could have made this a colour photo. But in black and white, the things I was seeing get all the emphasis.

Picking out those details helped me compose the picture, too. Which leads me to a general point.

Processing in black and white has an effect on how I compose photos. I’m not a fan of busy composition. But making photos intended for black and white means you can simplify more.

A simple composition makes for powerful images. There’s no doubt about that. You can make simple compositions in colour. But in black and white, there’s something more powerful still.

But how do you go about seeing patterns, tone and shape?

Garden trellis

This photo is of some garden trellis in strong sunlight. I noticed it because of the shadow at first. But when I moved in close and the texture of the wood showed through, I saw my subject.

I adjusted the curves to get the strong contrast shown in the image to represent what I was seeing.


This photo uses strong contrast, too. And the composition breaks the rules a little. By keeping everything in the middle, you sense the depth better. I could have rearranged the pencils and then used the rule of thirds. I think this photo is stronger because I didn’t.

Also, by adjusting the curves to boost the contrast, it adds to the sense of depth in the photo. It also created an interesting atmosphere. Talking of which…


This photo was also taken on a cloudy, rainy day. There was a strong sense of foreboding that I wanted to capture. Black and white is great for capturing atmosphere. I think this photo demonstrates that.

So, black and white photography changes the way you see things. And that opens up a world of new subjects. You can create atmosphere and drama with a few tweaks in post processing. Try it out, it’s good fun.

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