Why do we all love black and white photography?

Working as a family photographer in Cambridge, I am known for my colourful and vibrant family and children’s portraits.  But, I absolutely love a good black and white portrait.  There’s something about monochrome scales of black, white and grey that appeal to my minimalist side.  Black and white portraits are timeless… Classic… They hang on your walls and sit on your mantlepieces alongside other black and white portraits of your Granny when she was a little girl!  They look effortless together.  And that’s why all digital files bought in my packages come in both colour AND black and white!

Why does black and white work so well?

When you look at a monochrome portrait, you are forced to see past the blue skies, the pretty cornfields or the beautiful smart clothes.  Your eye and your mind are drawn to the emotions of the subjects.  Are they happy?  Excited? Thoughtful?  You begin to notice the details of shape, tone and texture in the photograph.  You see the composition, the lights and darks, the shadows and the lights.

There are some very famous photographers who’ve built an entire career on portraying emotion through the use of black and white photography – Henri Cartier Bresson  and Herb Ritts, are just a couple for example.

Tips for taking better black and white photos

So taking all this into account, how can you take a better black and white photo of your own family?  Here are my top 5 tips when you’re out and about with your camera:

1 – Consider your camera settings.

Most DSLR cameras allow you to change your settings and actually take all photographs in monochrome.  When you’re first ‘getting your eye in’ for black and white portraits, this will really help you focus on the important things and remove the distractions of colour!

2 – Focus on the details.

Start to really focus on your composition.  Look for shapes in your photograph.  Search for light and dark.  Find shadows and light.  Create texture and contrast in your subject.   All these add to conveying the emotion and storytelling of a black and white portrait.

3 – Strong light

In the case of monochrome photography, strong light often works well.  You can use direct sunlight to your advantage to create bold shadows and light.

4 – Don’t be put off by colour

If your image doesn’t look great in colour, don’t bin it straight away.  Try converting it to black and white.  Sometimes if you’ve got the white balance (warmth of the image) wrong, the skin tones may look grey or green.  Or perhaps there are so many colours in everyone’s clothes, that you’re struggling to focus on the subjects.  Converting it to monochrome can help remove some of these distractions and focus your attention on the emotion and people in your photograph.

5 – Post processing

Once you’ve downloaded your digital images, try a bit of basic post processing with the image processing software you have.  Simply adjusting the shadows and highlights in a black and white photograph makes all the difference! And you can do this with most photo on a smartphone these days!

Photographer in Cambridge

Louisa Williams is a family and children’s photographer based near Cambridge and working throughout Cambridgeshire, Suffolk  and the surrounding areas.  You can see more of her current work and enquire about commissions here and can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Booking your family photography session

If you’d like some beautiful family portraits, you can find more details about my family sessions here.  If you’re ready to book and would like to secure your session date, pease drop me an email on louisafrenchphotography@gmail.com or fill in this form.