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Monochrome elegance: How to get the best black and white photo prints

Words by MyFUJIFILM

March 20, 2024

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Monochrome elegance: How to get the best black and white photo prints
Less colour, less impact? Hold up. Not quite.

You might have your preconceptions about black and white photography, but getting powerful monochrome shots can be just as - if not more - exciting than working with the full spectrum of colours. As you improve your focus on other visual components, it’s also a great way to sharpen up on your general photography skills.

These are some of our top tips to get you going. Showstopping black and white photo prints, here you come.
Is black and white better for portraits or landscapes?
A lot of landscape photos aim to create atmosphere, and oh, can monochrome photos do atmosphere. Removing the distraction of colour, you can instantly dial up the mood, whether peaceful, haunting or foreboding. Landscapes also tend to have an abundance of textures and structures which lend themselves to the medium.

Black and white portrait photography can be equally striking. A lack of colour can heighten the focus on the subject, resulting in a more emotive image. And it can create the timeless, nostalgic look of portraits in times gone by.

With either, it really depends on the conditions you have to work with and the message you want to communicate.

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Top tips for taking stunning black and white photos
What some photos make up for in colour, they lack in other artistic components. Maybe harsh, but it’s true. Vivid, entrancing colours can serve as a mask that with black and white photography, certain elements can no longer hide behind. 

You’ll need to consider depth of field, tonal contrasts, dynamic range, lighting and composition to nail your black and white shots. We’ll walk you through a few. 
Look for high contrast
Think of contrast as the difference between the bright and dark elements of a photo. If there’s a range of middle tones but little in the way of pure blacks or whites, it’s low contrast. High contrast is when the brights and darks are taken to extremes. For medium contrast, there should be a smooth gradation through the shades of grey to the extremes on either end of the spectrum. 

Of course, contrast can be adjusted during the editing process. But to master black and white photography, it’s best to develop an eye for tonality.

Look for areas with very dark and very bright tones. The starker the contrast, the more striking the images will tend to come out. When tonal contrast is lacking, you’ll likely find yourself with grey and grainy photos.
Consider your lighting
Lighting and tonality go hand in hand. To enhance the tones you have to work with, you’ll want to shoot in the right light - whether it’s natural or artificial.

As a general rule, harsh light tends to be more effective for black and white photos. Think middle of the day, sun blaring kind of lighting. It creates a more contrasted aesthetic with dramatic shadows, whereas shots in soft light can come out flat.

Try shooting at this time then in a softer light and see how the outcomes compare. It’s by no means a strict rule, more a good practice for getting in tune with what works.
Find varied textures
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When you’re stripping colour away, the finer details in your photos become all the more important - and a lot of the time, these details equate to the textures in the subject. Textures such as rugged cliff edges, rippling water or wrinkled skin create visual patterns of shadow and light. Monochrome tonality can be used to draw attention to these features. If you can find multiple layers of texture that complement one another, all the better. Look for striking juxtapositions, such as angular shapes beside reflective surfaces. A variety of patterns, lines, curves and structures can be the making of an excellent black and white photo. 
Remember the rule of thirds
For those unfamiliar with the rule of thirds, this composition guideline entails horizontal and vertical lines across your camera’s viewfinder - or phone screen - dividing it into nine equal zones. The idea is that you place your subject in the left or right third of an image, and place focal points of your shot at the intersections in your grid. More a handy guideline than a steadfast rule, it’s an easy way to achieve compelling shots.

Shooting in black and white, you’ll want the strongest compositions, commanding the viewer’s attention. Hone your eye for composition and the results will speak for themselves.
How to edit black and white photos
Whether you’re editing using the easy features on your smartphone or diving into the world of photoshop, there are a few key areas to focus on.
Perfect the contrast
As you play with contrast and exposure, keep our guidelines on contrast in mind. Messing with other settings, you may lower the contrast in the process. Take care to maintain the contrast, or in many cases, increase it. This will add to the eye-catching, three-dimensional look of the image.
Adjust the colour sliders
If you’re shooting in colour then converting to black and white, this is a useful way to adjust specific colours in the image. Even if they’re no longer apparent in their original state, it’ll change the grey gradients, making you a master of monochrome.
Crop the composition
Got a couple of shots you love, but not fully satisfied with the composition? The crop tool is your friend. Negative space, the rule of thirds and ratios can be improved in the editing process, correcting what the viewer’s eyes are drawn to.
How to get the most from your black and white photo prints
You’ve got your shots and edited them to perfection. But the work isn’t yet finished. Transitioning them into physical prints, you want to enhance the quality further, not take away from the work you’ve put in so far.
Which type of paper is best for monochrome photos?
As glossy prints reflect more light, they give colours, contrasts and details a boost, often adding to the impact of a monochrome photo. If you’re planning on hanging a glossy print on the wall, its reflective nature can become a burden, as you’ll have to consider lighting in choosing its placement. It’s a small and often redundant drawback, but one worth considering.

Other than its use as a practical alternative, matte paper can evoke a cool, retro feel that’s better suited to some photos. Again, consider the desired mood and tonality of your shots and you should have a better idea. It really comes down to the photos you’re printing and your personal preference. 
DIY or professional printing? 
These days, it’s possible to get high-quality prints from home. This is obviously ideal due to the convenience of it. But you will need to invest in a good home printing set-up, including the right printer, print cartridges and photo paper.

If you’re striving for professional quality, these costs will add up - from the initial investment of a market-leading printer to the ongoing purchase of photo paper, which isn’t cheap. 

Often, it can work out more affordable to order your prints from a reputable photo lab. You’ll also have the peace of mind that every one of your photos is realised in the highest possible quality. 
High-quality photo prints and wall art from myFUJIFILM
At myFUJIFILM, we’re just as passionate about making the best of your black and white photos as you are. Printing on our Fujifilm 100% Original Photographic Paper, we guarantee your prints are realised in the absolute highest quality. Choose between sizes ranging from 4”x4” to 6”x8”, whether you’d like them in gloss or matte, then hit ‘Create Now’. We’ll get them to you within two days.

And prints aren’t all we do. We can also create stunning wall art for you to display in your home. Readily-framed prints; canvases or even aluminium for something a little different. Get inspired by the possibilities.

Want to discuss your ideas with our team? Get in touch and we’ll be happy to talk.