The beauty of monochromatic pictures

4 min read
Black and white photo of a chair with a shirt on it
“Monochrome photographs are the most colourful things in the universe because they contain all colours while excluding all of them at the same time.” - anonymous photographer.
Photo of a curved building in Spain

Image by Joakim Nådell on Unsplash

When it comes to monochrome photography, what you have to communicate is more important than how you express it. Shooting a location or subject in monochrome is a great way to make your photos appear more dramatic and expressive. Some people enjoy the nostalgic quality of black and white photography, while others enjoy its minimalist elegance. Overall, what makes monochrome photographs more realistic is the detailing it adds.

Monochrome photography has always played a significant role in the history of photography. Although many people believe it to be a recent trend, it has actually been used since photography's inception.

You may be more familiar with monochrome photography as black and white photography. All that monochromatic really means is photos with only one colour or shades of one colour. The beauty of monochromatic, black and whites shots, or whatever you want to call it, is that it is timeless. Some have gone so far as to consider it the purest kind of photography because it does not distract the eye with various shades of distinct colours. The viewer is able to better focus on a photo's details in black & white.

Do you aspire to be a master of monochrome? Just follow these simple tips on how to get your best mono shots.

Tips on getting your best monochromatic shots

Keep your camera settings as RAW

Make sure to shoot in RAW. Most cameras can capture images in RAW and JPEG formats.

JPEG only captures the minimum amount of image data necessary to produce a sufficiently detailed digital image, which results in a decreased file size. However, because RAW keeps almost all of the image data that the sensor recorded, it is a significantly bigger file.

As a result, you have more flexibility in post-production to optimize your images and export to JPEG later.

Photo of a skyscraper's exterior running up into the clouds

Image by Sanmeet Chahil on Unsplash

Lookout for the right scenes

The key here is to always look for scenarios that work better in monochrome than in colours; since we are used to seeing in colours, it won't be easy, but with time and experience you'll definitely get some spectacular results! Look for opportunities that offer high contrast and/ or strong leading lines. Such subjects are great for mono photography as they provide a clear distinction for the viewer's eyes to focus on. A great example is architecture which offers strong lines to draw interest.

Get your lines, textures, form and pattern on point!

Lines, forms, and objects with eye-catching textures and patterns make excellent subjects for monochrome photographs. After all, when colours are removed from an image, viewers will focus on them.

Use lines and forms to draw the attention of the viewers and direct their eyes across the image. Another excellent subject that might keep your audience's interest is patterns, which require more time to notice. The little details that are revealed by textures' highlights and shadows, which are best seen when they are exposed at an angle by a light source, making them a more interesting subject for monochrome photos.

Modern building with circular, porthole like windows shot in black and white

Image by David Underland - Photography - Pexels

Adobe Lightroom's "Split Toning" and "HSL" Features will be your friend

Lightroom’s Split Toning and HSL windows are the first things you should consider using to convert a colour photograph into a monochrome one. Since they allow you to choose the colour tone, saturation, and color of the image, as well as the countless combinations of these elements. There is no set formula for creating the ideal monochromatic effect for a photo; your creativity is the only limit! You can spend hours perfecting it!

Right contrast is the key

High contrast black and white photo of building's exteriors

Image by Aldiyar Seitkassymov - Photography - Pexels

You must train yourself to look for contrasting tones around you when looking for suitable scenarios or topics before actually aiming your camera because the best monochrome photographs are all about tonal contrast. To examine a potential subject for your frame, it can be difficult to "see" how a coloured scene will seem in grayscale or sepia. However, it can be helpful to pay attention to the highlights (near whites) and lowlights (near blacks), as well as lines and contours.

So, what do you think?

The next time you pick up your camera, are you ready to explore monochromatic photography? Even if you've only ever shot in colour you should at least think about trying your hand at a black and white photograph. You'll pick up some fresh ideas and develop an appreciation for techniques that colour photography doesn't really give you the opportunity to perform. And the best part is, you’ll feel even more connected to your photographs with monochrome. Don’t be afraid to try it out!

For more articles like this, do follow our LinkedIn page and check out the Pyx Photography blog. See you soon!

Photo of a man in front of a pink neon sign

Shooting night portraits

5 min read
Photo of a bowl of macaroons

Flat lay photography: a how-to guide

6 min read
Two women walking against lighted windows

Working with shadows in your photography

4 min read