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What makes a good black and white photograph?

Below are original photographs of my mom and dad taken in the late 50’s by each other, mom took dads, dad took moms. My mom.

My dad on our Pinto horse, Queenie.

I call these great photographs but not great like the master take. So, does anyone know? I sure have problems with it for some reason. How do you know which photographs you should pick out of your folders to make a great black and white?

My nemesis… I feel like there is a secret list only revealed after taking the four millionth photograph? Is it a gut feeling? Do you have to have a certain eye for black and white photography?  I usually end up trying all kinds of photos in a trial and error type choosing and am still left wondering is this a good black and white?

You see the wonderful masters like Ansel Adams, Henry Cartier Bresson, and Irving Penn and wonder how can I make something so wonderful??!!..

I have read and researched black and white photography for a few years now. Here are some ideas that seem to work, sometimes…

Pick a good composition, a photograph with strong composition elements like shapes, lines or symmetry.

One in a sepia tone..

Any advice is totally appreciated.. I do not have Photoshop unfortunately… Most are basically just edited in a free Fotor editor on my PC.

I have also read expressions are great for black and white photos. Animals and people are great for black and white, they say….

Those eyes..

I have also heard some “noise” is acceptable, but what is too much noise in a black and white?

I love Meika’s eyes.

Sometimes I choose black and whites to cover mistakes, blown out areas or distraction colors..

Meika and her white coat are so hard to shoot. Then you have distracting colors as well like below. You couldn’t tell where the water was in the back round and I wanted the viewer to see it.

Textures and patterns are always a sure bet..

The one below seemed to have all of them..

A white Poppy growing wild.

More eyes..

And lastly, Meika with her blown out coat. I wanted to highlight the strong shadow though, so I turned it into a black and white.

Please feel free to add any advice or tips you might have come across in the comments below. Have a great weekend!


What do you think?

16 Points

Written by Kim_Johnson


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  1. Black and white photography has always been a challenge for everyone. This is because, in many cases, black and white photography can affect, speak much more than the color. Black and white photography is cleared of the unnecessary color suggestion, but it still speaks a lot. It is important to emphasize the form, the contrast and, of course, not least the plot.

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