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Simple black and white photography

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Practical tips to make better black and white photos:

Black and White Articles

1. Simple and clean background

Shoot from a high angle, make sure to look at the edges, that there are no distractions. Then make a simple and elegant black and white photo, like this image by Henri Cartier-Bresson. Note the surrealism of the shot:

henri cartier bresson simplified pool 1

henri cartier bresson simplified pool

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2. Hand-gestures

A simple way to make more enigmatic black and white photos: capture hand-gestures!

3. Use a flash

dark skies over tokyo - eric kim1

By using a , you will more edginess to the photo, and increase the contrast of the photo!

Tip: Shoot flash during the day! As an example, see this silhouette photo I shot of a man at the Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi. By even using flash during the day, it kept him as a silhouette, but still illuminated the flowers in the foreground (shot in P/program mode on RICOH GR II, with integrated flash):

ERIC KIM STREET PHOTOGRAPHY5

Or you can experiment by shooting both with and without a flash. For example a portrait of Cindy with and without flash, shot on x :

Also if you’re going to shoot street photography during the day, use a flash on your subjects who are in the shade to cause them to ‘pop out’ of the background, like I did with this man here:

eric kim black and white street photography downtown los angeles 00003

4. Silhouette

Create a more epic black and white photo by shooting at -1 or -2 exposure-compensation, to darken the background, to make your subject into a silhouette; thus making the scene more mysterious and interesting to look at!

ERIC KIM STREET PHOTOGRAPHY1

5. Simple background

Find a simple background, like a clean white or grey wall, and wait for your subjects to enter the scene ():

dark skies over tokyo - eric kim2

Or what you can do is find interesting leading-lines, and wait for your subject to enter as well:

ERIC KIM STREET PHOTOGRAPHY2

6. Photograph your subject against the sky

To create more ‘figure to ground’ (separation) between your subject and the background, just photograph them against a clear sky:

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7. Photograph shadows

To make a more mysterious photo, photograph the shadows of your subjects.

Pro-tip: Shoot shadows during sunset (around 6-7pm), when the shadows of your subject get very long, like I did with this ‘Pinnochio shadow’ woman nose:

eric kim black and white street photography portfolio00004

8. Decapitation technique

Don’t photograph the face of your subject, just ask to photograph their hands, which makes the photographs more mysterious. This is a photo of a woman’s nails I shot in Downtown LA with a flash, when she initially rejected me to shoot a portrait of her:

eric kim black and white street photography portfolio00003

9. Get very close.

Robert Capa said, “If your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” It’s true. In this portrait, I shot macro mode wirh RICOH GR II, with flash in P mode. The reason the photograph is powerful, is because it feels so intimate:

10. Single eye

To make a dramatic photo, find a strong stream of light, and ask your subject to stand in front of it. Then shoot -1 or -2 exposure compensation, and only get one eye exposed.

Tip: Use the “burn” tool in Photoshop or Lightroom to selectively darken parts of the frame you find distracting. For example with this woman with braids, I burned away her right shoulder:

Black and White Photos by ERIC KIM

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