5 Tips to Enhance Black and White Portrait Photography

Black and White Portrait Photography Black and White Portrait Photography

Tips to Enhance Black and White Portrait Photography

Photography is a favorite hobby or profession for several people. A report of 2018 (USA) shows that 31.36% of the respondents (having high income) said photography to be their hobby.

As a hobby or profession, people pursue different types of photography and black and white portrait photography is one of them.

You would wonder why black and white portraits? You can see it this way.

We see colors all around us – be it television, banners, or movies – everything is colorful. That’s why black and white stands out from the crowd. It also gives nostalgia for the previous eras.

In previous eras, black and white was the only option, whether it was movies, photographs, or other visuals.

However, nowadays, it’s a creative choice for people. The same goes for portrait photographs. Black and white portrait photographs have gained high popularity.

Why go for Black and White Portraits?

Black and white portraits don’t have any other color shades except for shades of grey, white, and black. It allows the viewer to emphasize the main aspects of the photograph, which include the subject, texture, and image composition.

People do focus on such elements in a color portrait. However, black and white pictures provide more emphasis to these aspects.

Some photographers believe that black and white portraits bring out the subjects’ emotions in a better way.

Moreover, these types of images have more simplicity in them. You can take a black and white portrait photograph when the pattern, subject, or texture is more compelling than the color hues.

Let’s check out the camera settings you would require for black and white portrait photography.

Camera settings for black and white portrait photography

When you plan to take monochrome or black and white portraits, you should consider changing the camera settings as per the requirements.

You can ensure perfect images by tweaking your shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. Let’s see what you should keep in mind to improve your black and white portrait photography. 

Camera settings for black and white portrait photography

Camera settings for black and white portrait photography

  • Shutter speed: You should keep the shutter speed as fast as your camera’s focal length. It will help you to avoid any motion blur as slow shutter speed may lead to blurry portraits.
  • Aperture: If you want to focus on the subject and grab the viewer’s attention towards the subject, you should use a wide aperture. The reason is that the wide aperture blurs out the background and puts the main emphasis on the subject.
  • ISO: When shooting black and white portraits, aim for higher ISO compared to colored ones. The increased ISO will add a classic film grain look to your pictures, making them look classy.

Best Lens for black and white portrait photography

When it comes to choosing a lens for your black and white portraits, it depends on your photography style and requirements. However, specific lenses are better for portraits, whether black and white or color.

Best Lens for black and white portrait photography

Best Lens for black and white portrait photography

You shouldn’t use ultra-wide lenses as they can distort your subject. Also, when you use telephoto lenses, it will put you too far from the subject most of the time.

To get the best results in your black and white portraits, you should use portrait lenses with a 50-85mm focal length range. Most photographers prefer the 85mm range.

Also, ensure that you choose lenses having a wide aperture having low f-number like f/2.8 or lower. It will create a soft bokeh effect which helps to put more emphasis on the subject and less on the background.

5 Tips to Get the best black and white portraits

In portrait photography, black and white shine incredible. However, you can improve the looks of your black and white portrait by following these techniques. Hence, if you want to improve your black and white portraits to the next levels, read more:

5 Tips to get the best black and white portraits - Emphasize the eyes

5 Tips to get the best black and white portraits – Emphasize the eyes

1. Emphasize the eyes:

In most portraits, the eyes are the central part of the focus. They are usually the focal point around which the rest of the photograph is built. It’s true, especially in the case of black and white portraits.

Hence, if you want to grab the viewer’s attention, then put emphasis and sharpness around the eyes. Also, ensure that the eyes of your subject are well-lit and in the focus of your photograph.

2. Use different expressions:

Like the eyes, your subject’s expressions can become prominent on your black and white portraits. You can take advantage of different expressions of your subject in the portrait.

You can ask the subject to change their expressions like raising eyebrows, twitching the mouth’s corner, or smile lines under the eyes. It will make the portraits look better.

5 Tips to get the best black and white portraits - Use different expressions

5 Tips to get the best black and white portraits – Use different expressions

You can prepare a list of different words and ask the subject to read it while you shoot.

You can go for terms such as sadness, love, joy, anger, cheese, etc. You can use different words for diverse expressions and capture photographs while the subject says those words.

3. Focus on lighting:

In a black and white portrait photography session, you can play with lights and create different effects. It works effectively, especially if you are shooting indoors. You can choose to have a harder source of light if you want a high-contrast portrait.

However, if you want a subtle picture, then go for the soft light source. High contrast lighting adds a dark or moody effect to your portraits. Whereas bright and soft light adds a light and airy feel to the portrait.

4. Add contrast with light:

You should also focus on the contrast of your black and white portraits for better results. Tr to add contrast to the light if you want a high-contrast black and white portrait.

You shouldn’t crank up the contrast to 100 as it would make the portrait unflattering. You can keep the contrast between +15 and -15. You can also adjust the contrast when editing the portrait.

5. Choose the right background:

Another essential point in portrait photography is choosing the background. You should keep a background that’s black or has a uniform pattern.

It’s because you wouldn’t want any new focal points in the portrait except for the subject. If you keep the background darker, it can help you put more emphasis on your subject.

5 Tips to get the best black and white portraits - Choose the right background

5 Tips to get the best black and white portraits – Choose the right background

How to Edit Black and White Portraits?

Just like other photography, black and white portrait photograph also benefits from post-processing. Some tips that will help you to edit the black and white portraits include:

  • Use photo editing software or tools such as Adobe. It’s available for both Windows and Mac. You can use Lightroom or Photoshop for accentuating shadows or highlights. You can also try a tinted monochrome image or pump the shadows in one layer, then highlights them in another layer.
  • You can also use editing tools such as burn, dodge, and curves to amplify the settings in different ways. You can change the levels of brightness or darkness for different results. Since your portrait is already in black and white, you have so much room to edit it to make it better.

Conclusion

These were all the basic points you need to know about black and white portrait photography. Hence, if you are starting with black and white portrait photography professionally or performing it as a hobby, this article will help.

You have to focus on the subject, background, expression, and light for a perfect portrait.

Moreover, you should change the camera settings as per the black and white portrait requirements. Once it’s done, you can edit the portrait a bit, and you will see incredible results.

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