Being able to ‘see’ how the shot will look after conversion is a key skill for success, and with these tips, you too will be able to master it.
When you use an editing software to remove colour from an image, you immediately lose one element the viewer relies on to interpret the image. For this reason, when looking for a suitable subject, you need to look beyond the colours, and visualize instead how the shapes, tones and textures will define the image.
Due to the lack of colour, the whole composition of your shot relies on contrast and shape. Therefore, look for scenes and subjects with high contrast, and simple, strong lines and shapes. Ensure you pay attention to areas of darkness as well as light, as both have a strong impact on the results of the shot.
Tone is another important element to investigate. Most black and white images have a strong range of shades from black through to white, but you can also create low-key (dark) or high key (light) monochrome images.
Fine details or strong textures bring depth and interest to your shots, and illumination with strong light is a great way to put emphasis on textures.
Strong, minimalist compositions, and graphic lines are great for guiding the eye, and creating dynamic shots.
If the scene or subject you are photographing relies largely on colour for mood and impact, you are probably better off keeping it in colour. Flowers are often examples of this, which is why it is often advised to avoid flowers, and sunsets are also a prime example.
You can always shoot in mono mode as this allows you to see the results on location – but if you do so, shoot in raw, as JPEG mode will discard all colour information, meaning you can’t tweak the conversion later.
Keep your ISO at 100 or 200, because you want to avoid unsightly noise. Later, you can use Photoshop to add some authentic film grain if you want a noise effect.
You can do this by going to Filter>Noise>Add noise. Select Gaussian distribution and tick monochromatic to avoid unsightly colour splodges.