How to make your Black&White photos memorable

5 steps to pay attention

Composing photos is not always easy. You have to pay attention to many details. Even a black and white photo can have its pitfalls. That is why the following are some points to pay attention to when you want to take a black and white photo.

1.           Beware of shapes!

When you choose to take a black and white photo, you have to pay a lot of attention to geometric compositions!

You have to be able to convey emotions such as joy, happiness or sorrow without using colours. This is not as easy as it may seem.

2.           Abstract compositions, what a passion

In order to begin a first approach to this type of photography, we can help ourselves with abstract compositions that are best suited to this type.

We can try to shoot close up, eliminate the horizon or focus on the shadow.

3.           Use a wide range of tones

Ansel Adams first talked about the zonal system, a scientific theory of exposure and expansion of the ability to record tones in film.

Ansel’s 10 zones

The zonal system is divided into 10 zones, starting from pure black, zone 0, to pure white, zone 10.
The principles of the zonal system are applicable to both analogue and digital photography.
When using the various tonal ranges, you will need to integrate the light source because you will need a lot of light.

– Zone 0 corresponds to black. No discernible texture. Corresponds to the 0 value of the digital histograms.

– Zone 1 Slight change of tone compared to the previous zone but still no discernible texture. Corresponds to value 26 of the digital histograms.

– Zone 2 Slight traces of weft. Corresponds to value 51 of the digital histograms.

– Zone 3 Zone corresponding to dark or poorly reflecting materials. The subjects begin to present good forms of detail. Corresponds to a value of 76 on the digital histograms.

– Zone 4 Dark foliage, dark stones or shaded areas. Corresponds to the 103 value of the digital histograms.

– Zone 5 Medium grey (Kodak reference card – 18% reflectance), comparable to dark foliage or grey stones. Corresponds to value 128 of the digital histograms.

– Zone 6 Average value of the skin of European populations, light-coloured stones. It corresponds to the value 152 of the digital histograms.

– Zone 7 Very fair complexion, smooth snow with lateral illumination. Corresponds to the 178 value of the digital histograms.

– Zone 8 Whites with delicate texture and shading, snow with surface traces, high light on normal skin.  (last useful zone for composition purposes) Corresponds to the value 205 of the digital histograms.

– Zone 9 White without surface texture, the last difference with pure white. It corresponds to the value 230 of the digital histograms.

– Zone 10 Pure white, no texture. It corresponds to the value 255 of the digital histograms.

Credits: Schema del sistema zonale di Ansel Adams

4.           Use the histogram

An ideal histogram will be contained within the two extremes, with more weight on the right side. Play around with exposure and shooting parameters in order to fit into this scheme.

5.           Bracketing

Bracketing is a function that allows you to “take three pictures”: the first one underexposed by one step, the second one overexposed by one step and the third one taken by you.
In the post-production phase you can choose the best photo.

These are just a few tips to make your black and white photos unforgettable!

Credit: Matej Michalik, Slovakia

Dajana Mrruku

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