VivienChinos Photography

How to create black and white photos in Photoshop

In this article, you will be enlightened on how to create black and white photos using Photoshop, Black and white Photography helps preserve an image’s soul look, using the shades of white and black.

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What is black and white photography?

The term ‘black and white’ really just refers to the way the film is printed. Different chemical treatments will create different types of black and white prints. For example, if you took a photo of your garden in color, then developed that into a black and white print, it would be considered black and white photography because you used color film to take the picture (the same applies to digital photography). So when you say that a photo is “black and white”, it simply means that the tones [value/color/level of brightness in each pixel] in each picture element [pixel = any point on the screen and is the smallest unit of an image (idea: 123 pixels x 123 pixels = 1234 total possible number of pixels)] make it black or white.

Doesn’t this make black and white photography easier? Yes, we can easily see these tones after we take it. Of course, there are photos with pure black areas. But I would say that there are not many photos where these pure blacks are not modified by various other colors. For example, dark shadows are usually grayish. Even if we take a photo of a black object, it is still hard to get pure black. It’s just that we can do it very easily using Photoshop or other image editing programs.

Why use black and white photography?

There are several reasons: First of all, there is very little color distraction in a black and white photo. In color photography [or in real life], there can be lots of various colors, which prevent us from capturing the objects’ unique characteristics [this unique characteristic is not unique when you add other colors because your brain says “hey that was blue before but it’s red now… oh wait, no it’s pink.”]

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Also, in a color photo, you have to think about the best place to take the photo. In a black and white photo, you just point the camera at where you want it. This is one of the reasons that film cameras have been used for many decades!

In terms of image quality [just from the standpoint of a viewer], black and white photography has a couple of different advantages over color photography. First, in a black and white photo, there are no colors except for the ones that make it black or white [in other words: if we take a photo of red flowers in real life, they will all still be red. If we take a black and white photo of the same flowers, they will all be shades of gray. Black and white photos are more true to life in some way]. Also, black and white photos are not corrupted by bad filters. With bad filters, you can see ugly patterns on the images. Finally, with black and white photography, it is easier to remove shadows or any elements you want out that don’t fit into your composition.

Elements of Well Created black and white photography

Every art has characteristics that make it unique. Photography is no different! It also has its own characteristics. There are several that I have observed over the years that can be used to create good black and white photos.

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This is probably the most important one. If you want good black and white photos, you need to find places where the light is really low or almost no light at all. It doesn’t matter if it’s rainy or snowy outside, if the light is low enough, it will be very dark in your photo. If you want to shoot a picture of a building, I highly recommend that you find a spot where the building is surrounded by trees. The trees absorb light from the sky and reflect it into your photo. So if your camera’s flash is used, it will be very difficult for the flash to make a difference in turning a black and white photo into a color photo.

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Use of sunlight/shadow

It is very important to make use of shadows in your photo because these are what make any image cool and attractive. In this sense, all photos can be considered black and white as long as shadows are used well. In fact, I would say that there should be more emphasis on shadows than other colors. It’s very easy to “artificially” turn a black and white photo into a color photo. In other words, it’s very easy to make a black and white photo “look like it’s in color.” But this is not how real-life photos look! It’s much more difficult to make good photos using only shadows. This would be kind of like taking a picture of a building on a rainy day without soft shadows along the edges. So remember, any good black and white photo should use shadows to one degree or another. Just as pixels on your computer screen are formed by the shadows of light.


Experimenting is the biggest reason why I like black and white photography. I don’t believe that experimentation is possible with color photography because it’s much easier to change the colors of an image (change the hues, saturation level, etc) than to make an image black and white. So this means that if you experiment with colors, you will always end up with a color photo. But if you experiment with blacks and whites, there are countless possibilities. This can be applied to different types of images (for example pure blacks or very bright whites). The different types of shadows that occur naturally also allow us to use our creativity in many different ways!

Using saturation

This is the most interesting and the hardest part of experimenting. Using saturation in a good black and white photo can create a lot of different effects. You can make your image darker and lighter (or even go between them). You can also make your equipment [the camera/lens] more or less noisy [this means that if you move too close to an object, it should be less noisy, but if you move further away from the object, it should be noisier]. In addition to these differences, other kinds of changes in color give us other kinds of colors that we usually don’t see in our daily life. For example: using whites that have a blue tint instead of just pure white. Use dark colors that have an orange tint instead of just black. That’s why this is so fun!

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Other characteristics that makes creating a Black and White Photo attractive

There are several other characteristics that make good black and white photos attractive. If you use the right setting (and I mean the exact right setting) on your camera, you can create some good-looking images using good shadows. Another way to make your photo look very smooth is to use artistic value instead of light value… This means that you need to know the difference between the light value and artistic value to be able to do this correctly (light value is what your camera’s meters tell you, which is different from what the eye sees).

The best way to learn how to use artistic value to create good black and white photos is to look at other examples of good black and white photography. If you search the internet, it probably won’t take long before you find some good examples. So I hope that this has provided you with some insights into black and white photography! It’s definitely worth the effort!

Now go out there and experiment with what you have learned! And if you are not sure how it should be done, don’t worry. Just try using different settings on your camera until you get something that looks interesting. Then do some research on how it was done.

Don’t forget: you can always email me and ask questions! just send an email to: and I will respond as soon as I can!

Good luck! – Vivien

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