14 Reasons You Must Use Black & White For Landscape Photography

Many landscape photographers who worked in color for many years are starting to try their hands on black and white landscape photography.

14 Reasons You Must Use Black & White For Landscape Photography

We have 14 reasons why you must use black and white for landscape photography, from improving your composition skills to exploring new photography techniques.

Monochrome photos aren’t just timeless and classic but they also seem to capture a magical atmosphere, no matter what landscape you are photographing.

Let’s find out what makes black and white landscape photos so appealing and why it is worth experimenting with this way of photographing.

1. Black And White Also Works In Bad Light

While you also need a certain quality of light for black and white images, you can get away with a lot more than in color photography. Color photos are typically taken when the natural light is at its best during dusk or the early morning hours.

When you are working in black and white, then you can shoot at almost any time when the light is out. As the focus in black and white is on the compositions rather than the light itself, you can usually capture a landscape in much more challenging light conditions.

From bright daylight that creates deep shadows to subtle contrasts, black and white allows you to transform even the worst light into a beautiful photo.

2. You Can Try Infrared Photography With B&W

Infrared photography in color can look a little too extreme and unnatural. They are often used in artwork but they don’t usually represent a realistic image of the landscape.

Black and white infrared photography, on the other hand, shifts some of the typically extreme tones into a more believable and natural sphere.

Plus, you can create something absolutely unique and individual by working with a black and white camera and an infrared filter. For example, certain colors, such as blue and red, turn dark which gives them a dramatic effect.

Light colors, like yellow and white, are brighter and more glaring in a black and white infrared photo. There are a couple of different ways for hobby photographers to experiment with infrared photography.

he most common technique is to use an infrared filter with your camera. This type of filter blocks out light and certain colors. However, you will need a tripod and a long exposure setting on your camera.

Alternatively, you can buy an infrared camera that already has a built-in filter. They are typically a bit more expensive than standard cameras but the extra cash can be well worth it if you plan to use your new gear regularly.

3. Black And White Is Ideal For Long Exposure Photography

Long exposure photography in black and white has slowly become an art form on its own. It has grown a lot in popularity because this form of photography creates some magical, dreamy scenes.

Plus, it is also much easier to shoot these stunning photos today, thanks to a variety of accessories, such as neutral density filters with light corrections.

In addition, black and white long exposure photography is also much easier to handle with a digital camera because you can easily preview your photos.

But what makes this form of long exposure landscape photography very interesting is that you can also take photos on rainy or cloudy days when the light isn’t good.

This is the biggest advantage of natural black and white photography over color landscape (see also: 10 Best Nature Landscape Photography Ideas) photography. The long exposure on black and white distracts from the bad light conditions and focuses the eye of the viewer on textures and the bigger composition.

4. Black And White Improves Your Compositions

With color photos, many photographers rely on the strength of the color in the image to convey the message. This often means that the story of the subjects in color photography takes a step back.

On the other hand, black and white photography simply doesn’t have any color you can fall back on. You need to use the classic foundation of composition, such as placement, form, pattern, shape and line.

When you are working with black and white photography, you can work on all these compositional elements to improve your photography skills.

This also makes the black and white technique a great opportunity to practice your photography knowledge, while challenging you at the same time to learn something new.

Once you know these essential elements and how to create them in your photography, you will be able to take much stronger photographs, even in color.

5. Black And White Creates More Dramatic Shots

While color landscape photos can convey a dramatic story, there is something almost cinematic about the compositions of different objects in a black and white photograph.

With the deep shadows contrasting bright light, you can create a number of dramatic effects that appear surreal and theatrical. Depending on the light, a black and white photo is a fantastic way to capture naturally dramatic scenes or more abstract subjects.

6. Get To Know Your Camera’s Monochrome Mode

The majority of modern cameras have a specific black and white mode, sometimes also called monochrome mode. This can vary depending on the type of camera you have but even digital color cameras usually have some form of monochrome settings.

It is always worth experimenting with the great variety of settings and features of a digital camera, whether this is basic shutter speed for different scenes or black and white features.

When you change your DSLR camera to monochrome, then you can preview your images in black and white. Some mirrorless cameras even allow you to see the black and white image directly through the viewfinder.

This means you don’t just have to imagine anywhere what a photo could look like in black and white but you can instantly see whether you need to take another shot or you have the right composition.

Keep in mind that you still want to shoot your black and white photos in RAW format to ensure that the color data of your image is stored on the camera. This means that you can use both black and white and the color version if you like.

7. Black And White Is Timeless

Black and white photography is the original way we used to capture photos of our surroundings in the past. This is the reason why black and white photos are often considered historical or timeless.

While black and white has become a modern trend with its own movements in the photography community, the photos themselves are usually classic and aesthetically pleasing.

There is an air of timeless beauty, elegance and respect around a subject that was captured in black and white.

This can create a fantastic contrast with the wild and rough nature in a variety of landscapes, from seashores and cliffs to flowing rivers and wide, open mountains.

Black and white allows you to capture this wild beauty and portray it with grace and elegance in monochrome.

8. Black And White Is An Escape From Reality

While you can also capture realistic scenes in black and white, the absence of color creates its own reality in an image. When we look at a colorful landscape shot, we expect this to be real with all its little details.

We know exactly that this scene exists somewhere in the world. On the other hand, our eyes don’t see in black and white, so anything that doesn’t have color is automatically considered a surreal landscape by our brains.

This is a fantastic way to change your own perception and that of everyone who looks at your photographs. We are all escapists at heart and want to depart from reality now and then.

Looking at a black and white photo gives us a chance to imagine another world that might not be part of our own. It is also an ideal method to capture your viewers’ attention and convey a meaningful message with your photography.

9. Black And White Is Perfect For Characterful Landscapes

Landscapes come in so many different shapes, sizes and variations that you have almost endless choices for your photography. As black and white creates some fantastic contrasts, you can easily bring out a landscape’s character in a photo.

Capture what makes your chosen scene special and hone in on the details. It may be that there is a stark distinction between black and white in a seascape, or there is overwhelmingly black with just a single object in white standing out.

What makes black and white so special in photography is that you can focus on these little details and really bring them to the foreground.

10. Black And White Lets You Use More Filters

Using filters in landscape photography is a common thing but it is even more useful in black and white photography. With the right filter, you can turn your monochrome image from a standard composition into a breathtaking shot.

Some of the most common filters used for black and white photos are circular polarizing filters. They can turn a bright blue sky into a deep, black while showing all the details as a contrast.

Polarizers reduce atmospheric haze and glare, so you can capture crisp landscape shots, even when you are facing reflections, such as in rivers or streams.

In addition to polarizing filters, you can also use neutral density filters which are perfect for long exposure photography in black and white. You can also use them for cloudy days to bring out the textures of your black and white objects.

11. Black And White Enhance Tones, Textures And Contrasts

Contrasts and textures are common in color photography but they are often secondary after the color of the composition itself. In comparison, in black and white photography, there is no color that could distract from the different tones and textures.

They are a key element of black and white photography and give your monochrome photo a lot of character.

If you want to capture scenes that are high in contrast with a wide range of different tones, then find a landscape that includes the whole spectrum from the brightest white to the purest black.

However, if you prefer to go with the minimalist landscape style, then try to work with a great range of gray. Also use the long exposure features on your camera to capture the flow between different black and white hues.

When you start to look around, you will be able to find these tones and textures almost everywhere in nature, from a path winding its way through the forest to a pier stretching out into the sea.

Just experiment with a range of textures in front of your camera lens and find out what is more pleasing to you. You can also create contrasts by taking shots of trees next to man-made structures like buildings and bridges.

12. Black And White Removes Distractions

While we may not see it this way every day, but color can be very distracting. It carries a lot of information that we use to identify objects. We know that grass is grass because it is green.

This means that when you remove any color from an image, then this simplifies the entire scene, including the subjects in your landscape.

Working in black and white is the perfect way to remove any distractions in the landscape by focusing the eye on the textures and shades in the monochrome photograph.

In fact, as you take color away from a landscape, you will be able to accentuate all the elements that you hadn’t noticed before. These elements will become more important in your image.

This is also an effective way to make certain subjects more prominent in your shots and ensure that they don’t get lost.

13. Black And White Nature Photography Makes You Travel

One of the biggest advantages of landscape photography is that you get to travel a lot, especially to places that might be more unusual. When you look for and find inspiring landscapes to photograph, then you need to pack your bags and travel.

But you don’t have to go to the other end of the world to capture some breathtaking shots. There are beautiful landscapes all around us, you just need to look for them.

In fact, it can be a great advantage to photograph the fields just outside your front door because you will be able to tell when the light changes and how to capture it in the right way.

You know your neighborhood and its scenery best, so you can easily capture the distinctive character of where you pass every day. This being said, traveling is a wonderful experience that can inspire you to take more creative photos.

Whether you get to know new people or discover landscapes that are unfamiliar, the world has so much inspiration to offer for creative minds.

Plus, black and white landscape photography is a great excuse to get out and spend some time in your favorite parts of the world.

14. Black And White Gives You A New Perspective

While landscape photography is a wonderful reason for a change of scenery from your daily life, black and white can change your perspective for so many reasons.

Color is very comfortable to all of us because we see in color every day but creatives need to get out of their comfort zone now and then to get inspiration for their next photography project.

While color photographs can be beautiful, photographers often try to push themselves to learn something new and surprising. Black and white photography can provide this special challenge.

It allows you to still use many of your basic photography skills but, at the same time, you can also venture outside of the space you feel comfortable in. Plus, it also teaches you a lot of new techniques to focus on textures and contrasts.

You can equally learn more about how to use filters with your camera. All these skills can also be extremely useful for color photography, improving your color shots.

But most importantly, black and white photography can offer you a different way of seeing the world around you.

You start to see textures in a bark you hadn’t noticed before, or the different colored fur of your pet that wasn’t obvious before you started looking for contrasts.

These may be small differences in tonal contrast but they can have a big impact on the quality of your photographs, whether this is in color or black and white.

After a while of taking pictures in black and white, you may even notice that you begin to sharpen your senses and perception for the smaller details that can make a good photograph so successful.

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons why black and white for landscape photography is popular and why so many photographers explore this new medium.

Whether you want to fill your landscapes with more character or you want to capture a timeless scene, black and white is the perfect format for a wide range of scenes.

Laura McNeill
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