60 Inspiring Examples of Black and White Photography

Black and white photography can give scenes a striking, timeless quality when done well. However, not every shot or technique will work well in black and white. To get the best black and white photos, consider the following tips.

Quick Tips for Beautiful Black & White Photos

1. Aim for clarity.

Color photos can have a wide palette of shading, but the best black and white images often have a clear ‘black’ and ‘white’ to guide the viewer. While shades of gray can be interesting, too, they’re harder to pull off. With too much gray, your image may end up looking vague or bland.

2. Use light and shadow to your advantage.

One way to create clarity is to have a strong contrast between darkness and light. With some planning, this contrast should be easy to create, as light and shadow are more obvious in black and white.

3. Focus on texture and shape.

Like light and shadow, texture and shape tend to be more important in black and white photography. You no longer have color to guide the viewer’s eye. Instead, you need interesting curves, curious shapes, and/or great texture.

4. Choose the right subjects.

While nearly any subject could look nice in black and white, some subjects are easier to work with than others. If you’re new to black and white photography, start with easy subjects, then tackle more challenging subjects later. Then, you can build up experience and confidence with less frustration and more success.

great greths — cloudscape
black and white clouds

Great Subjects for Black & White Photography

The following subjects all look beautiful in black and white. Some are excellent choices for beginners, while others require more technique and practice. If you find yourself getting frustrated with one subject, there’s no shame in giving up and trying a different one! After all, you want to enjoy the process of taking photos, so you’ll stay motivated to keep going and developing your style.

Natural Light & Dark Contrast

One challenge of shooting in black and white is that you have to imagine how your subject will look without color. For this reason, it can be helpful to start off with subjects that have a strong dark/light contrast, like a white feather on the asphalt or black writing on a white page. Then, you won’t have to stretch your imagination as much.

Similarly, you can look for light or dark backgrounds for your photo shoot. Then, simply choose a subject with the opposite tone (light subject with a dark background / dark subject with a light background), and you’ll be set for a nice black and white image.

Laurens Kaldeway – Trio
spoons reflecting music

Ana GR — it may, or may not, be the right time
black and white clock

jordan parks – mohawk
boy in bathtub

Ted — bay bridge night shot
black and white bay bridge

James Drury — clean feather
black and white drops on feather

Alex Greenshpun – Tippy Toes
dandelion with dew

Silhouettes

Silhouettes are the next step in learning how to envision photos in black and white. That’s because ignoring color is easy when you’re focusing on a silhouette. The dark/light contrast will be clear, regardless of the surrounding colors.

When you’re looking for silhouettes to shoot, remember that you don’t need perfect backlighting to get a lovely silhouette in black and white. With enough contrast, dark subjects can look like silhouettes against a light background. For instance, a dark bird like a raven may look like a silhouette against a light sky.

Sherrin Lim – .puppets on strings.
people riding on swing

Saùl Landell — Exodo Lírico
black and white father and kid

Bahadır Bermek – Need Some Rest
black and white stairwell

Bryon Lippincott – Exposed by the light
old man sitting in corridor

jordan parks – untitled
boys running black and white

Sunbeams

Shooting portraits in a sunbeam is one easy way to create silhouettes. But even without these silhouettes, sunbeams can be lovely subjects for black and white photography because they stand out clearly in monochrome. While a sunbeam might seem subtle in color, it will become an obvious ray of light in black and white.

Fotis Mavroudakis – Seeking forrest silence
Fotis Mavroudakis - Seeking forrest silence

Amine Fassi – Chefchaouen – The Kasbah Prison – 1471
black and white entrance to prison

jordan parks – in the kitchen
baby on kitchen floor

jordan parks – waiting
dog waiting

jordan parks – untitled
baby in sunlight

Interesting Patterns

Bright colors can be powerful – so powerful that they distract from other interesting subjects, like patterns. If you want to minimize this distraction and bring attention to a pattern, try shooting in black and white. This way, viewers will notice the pattern first instead of the colors.

Flowers and winding stairways are common patterns shot in black and white, but you can find many more great patterns in nature and architecture. Even a floating bubble has a pattern that may be unnoticeable in color, yet clear in black and white.

Paul Shears – Bubble Reflection
bubble

Children of the Mist — Momo´s Helix
black and white spiral staircase

Thanawat Thiasiriphet — Layers
black and white architecture

Paul Shears – Mayor’s Maze
circular staircase

Alex Greenshpun – Birth of a Star
Dahlia bud

Alex Greenshpun – Infinity
rose macro black and white

Architecture

Buildings like skyscrapers tend to look great in black and white for several reasons. First, they generally have interesting patterns, textures, and shapes that become more obvious without color. They’re also typically set against the sky, which becomes a nice, featureless background in black and white, free of distractions.

Finally, using architecture as a subject can help train your mind to ignore color when shooting in black and white. Because buildings have a strong, familiar shape, they’re easy to imagine in black and white, even when they are brightly colored. With some practice, you’ll soon get used to ignoring color and be ready to photograph more challenging subjects.

Nimit Nigam – Night Contrast
Sydney Opera House

drop photography – Untitled
black and white

Ben Roffelsen — Slice
black and white architecture

James Drury — cottam church
black and white church

Andy Farmer – Beckett Harp
Samuel Beckett Bridge

Justin Piercy – Fades Away.
old house

Vanishing Point

When roads or paths head towards the horizon, they seem to get smaller and smaller until they disappear. The point where they “disappear” is called the vanishing point. It’s a powerful compositional technique that works beautifully in both color and black and white.

Like architecture, using the vanishing point as a subject can help you practice seeing and shooting in black and white. You don’t have to imagine exactly how your photo will look without color. You can simply focus on creating a powerful vanishing point, and the rest will follow.

Konstantinos Kousis – Kozani, Western Macedonia Greece
Kozani , Western Macedonia Greece

Shirren Lim — .under the open sky, i walk.
black and white road

John Salisbury — cold walker
black and white forest with snow

John Salisbury – parallel accessed
railroad tracks

Shirren Lim – .long road [home].
long empty road

Misty Landscapes

Landscapes can be tricky to shoot in black and white, since they often look more beautiful with color. However, when you’re photographing mist or fog, it’s worth experimenting with black and white. Removing color can make the mist more eye-catching, as it’ll stand out against the dark landscape. For more examples of misty landscapes, check out these 50 magical misty morning photos.

Shirren Lim – .good morning bagan.
hot air balloons

James Drury – fog, tree, some birds
James Drury - fog, tree, some birds

Thanawat Thiasiriphet — Keep Walking
black and white man in the fog

Jennifer MacNeill – cow in the fog
road cow and fog

Motion Blur

Motion blur is a great technique for creating a sense of energy and movement in an image. You can use the technique either to blur your main subject or create a background. If you’re creating a background, your subject should ideally be more colorful than the background. Otherwise, the colorful background may draw the viewers’ attention away from the dull subject, even if the background is blurred.

If your background is distracting because of its bright color compared to the subject, you can solve this problem simply by shooting in black and white. Then, your subject will definitely stand out.

Amine Fassi – Life on the road
Muslim couple on motorcycle

Michele Lazzarini — Lost metro
black and white metro

Amine Fassi – Street Peek
boy rollerblading

Sam Codrington – In the Loop
Sam Codrington - In the Loop

Bahadır Bermek – Panning Turkey – Istanbul
man riding bicycle

Beaches, Shorelines, and Water

Beaches are fantastic locations for black and white photography because they often look boring without color. This dullness can be an asset when you’re shooting a portrait. The repetitive grayness of the sky, sand, and sea will ensure that all attention goes straight to your subject.

Amine Fassi – Ready to Fight
black and white fisherman

ivan sgobba – Sanibel Island – Florida
man walking by stork

Ahmad Syukaery – Fishermen Pulling The Net, Boom Beach, Banyuwangi
fishermen

Debjani Chowdhuri — Make Way for the Q
black and white boat with birds

Bahadır Bermek – Rain Man Turkey – Istanbul
man holding umbrella

Amine Fassi – Rabat Lighthouse – bw
rabat lighthouse

Animals

Many animals have neutral-colored fur that blends in with the environment. This camouflage can help them survive in the wilderness, but it’s not ideal for photography because it makes them less noticeable in pictures. To make animals stand out better in photos, try shooting in black and white. Then, the color of their fur won’t matter.

Sherrin Lim – .portrait of a yak.
yak

Amine Fassi – Green commuting
boy on donkey

Alex Greenshpun – You Spin Me Round
Alex Greenshpun - You Spin Me Round

Alex Greenshpun – Behold, the Mighty Tiger!
yawning kitten

Amine Fassi – Happy Camel, happy day
camel close up

Portraits

Portraits can be beautiful with or without color. Whether you choose one or the other depends on what you want the viewer to experience. In general, color portraits tend to focus more on fashion or the overall appearance of a person or scene. By contrast, black and white portraits tend to bring out the emotions and humanity of the person you’re photographing.

Of course, it’s possible to highlight fashion with black and white, as well as inspire emotions and human connection with color. But typically, black and white portraits have more emotional impact than color portraits. Unless color is essential for understanding the scene, it often distracts rather than adds to the deep, human emotion of a portrait.

For more examples, look at these 47 beautiful black and white portraits.

Jordi Corbilla – Sleeping beauty with dream reflection.
woman sleeping on subway

Shirren Lim – .novice monk.
novice monk

Mahesh Balasubramanian – Peek-a-boo !!!
man behind fence

Jaime Nicolau – Mi familia
family portrait black and white

Federica Giordano – fancy
woman in wide brimmed hat

Elena K. – Self
black and white portrait of face

Many of the above images were selected from our talented Flickr group. Next time you shoot in black and white, post your best shots in the group so we can appreciate them!

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