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A Guide to Black and White Photo Printing – Part Two

  • 21st December 2020
Black and white photo print of tree landscape

A Guide to Black and White Photo Printing – Part Two

This black and white Photo Printing guide has been broken into three parts. In part one we discussed black and white compared to a monochrome image. Also should you photograph in black and white or colour and the advantages and disadvantages of RAW and JPEG files. We also discussed the fine art photo papers we recommend. See ‘A Guide to Black and White Photo Printing – Part One’ for information on photo print papers.

Now in Part Two we discuss the components that are important to creating a stunning black and white photo. We also explain more about the importance of hue, saturation and luminosity and their impact on the black and white photos you create.

If you have any further questions, then please feel free to Get in touch


The Components that make an exceptional Black and White Photo

The components we will be discussing are broken down into areas of the image and are something you have to consider not only in photographing your chosen subject, but when you are editing your image file too.

These components are a part of photography, whether you are creating black and white or colour photos, but there is a difference in how you approach these two types of photos. With colour images, you can rely on the colours to be a part of the message you want to convey in the image. Bold colours can detract from any minor flaws in the overall image composition and you can rely upon the colour to convey the mood and emotion of the image.

Now with a black and white image you can’t hide behind colour, every part of the image is visible. You’re also relying on the various components to help tell the story of the image you create and to convey the mood and emotion you want to express. As we explain more about the components, you’ll understand what we mean.

Hue, Saturation and Luminosity

So one of the first components is colour and colour is broken down into hue, saturation and luminosity. The choice of colour combinations in your chosen subject will have an impact on whether they will create a good black and white photo image. Hue refers to a specific colour on the colour spectrum. Saturation refers to the intensity of the hue. Then luminosity refers to brightness or darkness of a hue.

Therefore different colours, at different hues and saturation each have a different luminosity value and this luminosity helps you assess what colours will work well together in black and white, for example red has a low luminosity value and therefore will be lost against a dark background. Just as yellow has a high luminosity, it will be lost against a white background. Certainly something to think about when composing your image.

More Components to Look at

black and white photo print of waterfallNext is contrast and this is a major component. Contrast will have a very big impact on the emotion and mood your black and white image will portray. A stark contrast can be great for landscapes, though a subtle graduation of contrast can have a softer emotional appeal. Polarising filters can help in creating contrast, especially in a muted sky.

Shadows have a big impact on a black and white photo, whether you choose block black shadows or finer subtle shadows, each has a different emotional impact on the image you create.

Also dark and light tones have an effect. They are the grey areas of an image, with their underlying depths of bright and darks. Depending on which tones you choose your image can have a serious, dark mood or a light ethereal quality.

Shapes take on more importance in a black and white photo. They become the composition of your image. They make sense of the story you’re trying to tell with your image.

Textures are like the added backdrop to your shapes. From wispy clouds, to ragged rocks, each affect the mood of an image.

Composition is key to a good image. You have to consider a focal point, it could be a pattern of light leading to a darker structure or choosing the angle for capturing an intense expression with a portrait. Whether it’s a portrait, landscape or street scene, you have to see everything as shapes. Good composition shows the purpose of the image, meaning it has more to say than a snapshot. 

Emotion is the final piece and is the culmination of all the other components. Throughout assessing each component process, they all come together to define the emotion of the image. It is what makes the  audience resonate with the image. Like a tune that stays with you, you want your black and white images to stay in the minds of your audience long after they have seen your black and white photos.

In Conclusion 

Each of these components is important and something you need to bear in mind when photographing a landscape, street scene, portrait and when photographing in macro. Your image has to make sense and have meaning for your viewer. By experimenting with the different components, you’ll also see which style suits you best. Whether it’s dark and moody or light and ethereal, these are just two examples, of what you can achieve.

Image File Inspection

If you’re unsure if your image file is large enough for a print or you think it might need editing. Then at The Artists Print Room we offer an Image File Inspection where we assess what size image we can print or whether the image needs enlarging, without losing the original integrity of the image.

Also please feel free to Get in touch to discuss you photo printing options further.


In Part Three of ‘A Guide to Black and White Photo Printing’ we will discuss editing your black and white photo image and provide information on choosing your subject matter.


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