Five Tips For Making Great Black & White Photographs

by Scott Bourne

posted Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 7:07 PM EDT

Scottscorvette-logoRich Harrington and I discussed this the other day and I thought it would make a good post. There are many things that I learned about black & white photography back in the day when we used film: black-and-white film, that is. Some of them translate to digital and some don’t.

For those of you who want to work in black & white, here are a few tips.

1. Capture as much data as possible. Shoot RAW in your highest bit depth rate. This is important since so much information can be lost during the conversion. You want to start with as much as you can to begin with.

2. Do NOT use your camera’s black and white mode. This locks you in. Shoot in color and convert for best results.

3. Shoot with your final result in mind when you’re working with your camera. It just makes for better results. Another way to say this is to “think” in black and white.

4. Think about the actual filters we used to use when we made black and white photos on film and try experimenting with them in post.

Camera Settings for Monochrome Filter Effects

None: Normal black-and-white image with no filter effect.

Yellow: Blue sky more natural. White clouds will look crisper.

Orange: Blue sky will look slightly darker. Sunsets more vivid.

Red: Blue sky will look very dark. Fall leaves look crisper and brighter.

Green: Skin tones and lips look good. Tree leaves and grass look crisper and brighter.

5. Experiment with some of the great plug-ins that are available for converting to black and white in post processing. I like Topaz Labs B&W Effects and Silver Efex Pro but there are also great B&W plug-ins buried in bigger programs such as onOne’s Perfect Effects.

(Scott Bourne is the founder of, an online photography magazine. Visit Photofocus for a variety of interesting and entertaining articles, photo product reviews, and the Photofocus podcast, released on the 5th, 15th and 25th of each month!)