Black And White Portrait Photography Is Not Easy: 7 Portrait Photography Tips

No comments

Black and white portrait photography can express certain emotions more clearly. While colored portraits occasionally have to struggle with a clear conveyance of emotions.

You may have heard or read something else, but shooting in black and white isn't easy - it's not easy to just switch to monochrome mode. In order to achieve the perfect, emotional black and white portrait image, there are a lot of things that you as a photographer should consider. We contacted a photographer who specializes in black and white portraits, who gives us an insight into how he photographs and creates his beautiful black and white portraits.

Let's get into Black And White Portrait Photography Is Not Easy: 7 Portrait Photography Tips shall we?

1. Find the (right) light (for you)

Black And White Portrait Photography Is Not Trivial: 7 Portrait Photography Tips

In the way I work, I prefer natural light and even illumination. That's why I usually take photos with a very large window at my back and avoid direct sunlight. The result is a softer light - always a good approach, especially for portraits of women. Make sure your model is in the brightest area in the picture, especially the face. Also try to create a light reflex in the eyes of your model to give the eyes space and depth. A background that is as calm as possible, without distracting elements, is also very helpful.

2. Communicate with your model

Black and white portraits are significantly reduced in their design means. So it is important to find a good balance for those design elements that are still left: reduction to the essentials, golden ratio, light / dark contrast.

Your model is the star: give him / her the attention he / she deserves. Empathy and communication are the key factors. Talk to your model (small talk is always good), drag your counterpart along, don't bore him / her and try to make the situation as pleasant as possible for him / her. Your model's expression is the most important design element that you have. 

3. Know your camera settings

Black And White Portrait Photography Is Not Trivial: 7 Portrait Photography Tips

It is imperative to know your camera and equipment, with all the pros and cons. Choose a lens you trust (I prefer 85mm on a full frame DSLR) and use manual mode with spot metering. The advantage you gain from this is constant results. Check the settings (shutter speed or aperture) regularly and adjust them if the conditions change, e.g. the distance to the light source (or window). Set the picture style or the display of your camera to black and white to get a better impression of the result.

4. Don't be afraid to focus manually

Black And White Portrait Photography Is Not Trivial: 7 Portrait Photography Tips

Ultimately, it's a matter of personal preference, but I like taking portraits close to the aperture between f / 1.8 and f / 2.5.

If you have a DSLR, only the phase detection of the autofocus supports you (in 90% of all cases). With 85mm f / 1.8 on a 35mm reflex camera and a distance of almost 2.5 meters, the depth of field is only 8.6 cm. To handle that with autofocus, you need a whole range of well-working autofocus points and a perfectly aligned lens with no front or back focus errors.

If you take photos with an open aperture, be prepared to manually focus or refocus more often (consider yourself lucky if your lens has a combined focus, many modern lenses have this function). 

5. Expose under

First of all, shoot RAW. A big advantage is that even if you have set a monochrome preview, you will receive color RAW data instead of black and white Jpegs. Another tip: selectively underexpose your portraits. Depending on the skin tone of the model and the characteristics of the camera, e.g. 1/3 f-stop for darker skin up to 2/3 f-stop for lighter skin.

These are only rough guidelines, however, as every lighting situation and every camera is different - unfortunately you have to find out for yourself.

So how do you find out how much you should underexpose a photo? Try to capture the natural shadows that are cast on the cheeks, on the jawline and under the lips in the photo. If these shadows can no longer be seen, the photo is overexposed. In overexposed images, these shadows are lost and you get a rather flat result. Recovering these shadows in post-production is very error-prone and frustrating. It is much easier to correct a slight underexposure than an overexposed image. And there are a few ways to influence the brightness in post-processing: HSL, gradation curves, etc. 

6. Edit the colored picture

Black And White Portrait Photography Is Not Trivial: 7 Portrait Photography Tips

Most modern retouching techniques such as frequency separation or gradient maps are not suitable for black and white images. So it is absolutely recommended to do the editing on the colored version of the picture. This will also help avoid blotchy areas of skin.

7. Every picture is unique

It is important to understand that every single black and white photo is unique and requires an individual black and white conversion. In the past I have used a variety of tools and resources, but I have been appreciating the capabilities of Alien Skin Exposure for some time.

My starting point for the conversion is an individualized preset of a B / W film. The various unique properties of an image must be taken into account. Settings such as color channels, clarity and the gradation curves vary depending on skin color, hair color, make-up and brightness distribution.

This was our "Black And White Portrait Photography Is Not Easy: 7 Portrait Photography Tips" article for you. I hope you enjoyed! Don't forget to leave us your question down below in the comments. We would love to hear from you.

No comments

Post a Comment