Landscapes taken in colour are great but if you convert or shoot your landscapes in mono, textures shapes, patterns etc. appear more prominently and have a stronger impact on the viewer. Mono's not something that works for every shot, as we'll explain alongside a few other tips that'll help make your mono work shine.
Photo by David Clapp
1. Depth Of Field
As with all landscape subjects, before taking your shot, know if you want a shallow or wide depth of field. Wider is good when you have several points of interest throughout the image as you need everything in the frame to be sharp.
2. In-Camera Or Conversion?
It is up to you whether you shoot black & white in-camera or make your mono conversions on the computer when you're back home. Just remember if you shoot monochrome Jpegs you won't be able to get the colour back later if you don't like the black & white shot so it's worth considering shooting in RAW which takes us nicely onto point 3.
3.Consider Using RAW
Switching to RAW from Jpeg will increase the range of tones recorded, plus you can rescue more detail from an under- or overexposed shot when you open a RAW file up on your computer.
4. Composition & Shapes
Clean, simple composition is the way to go when you're working in monochrome as the conversion of tones from colour to black & white don't always stand out as well and it can be hard to distinguish between different parts of the shot. If you don't use strong structures and familiar shapes such as trees, rocks and architecture, your shot can lose impact and as a result, not be as interesting.
5. Patterns & Lines
Look for repetitive patterns and strong lines that can help draw people into the image while strong foreground interest and lead in lines will further help guide the eye from the front to the back of your shot.
Photo by David Clapp
6. Colour & Tones
Do remember that some tones which can easily be picked out when you're working in colour, such as light blues and yellows, will look almost the same when you convert them to monochrome.
7. Cloud Detail
Skies dotted with white clouds are perfect for black & white landscapes as the contrast between the white clouds and what turns into a dark grey or even black sky creates plenty of mood.
8.Time Of Day
Although black & white shots are slightly more forgiving than coloured shots when it comes to shooting closer to midday, the best time of day to shoot is either is just after dawn or before dusk, to get low angled glancing light. An hour or two before sunset when the sun is slightly lower in the sky will give more definition to the shapes that sit in your foreground.
9. Get The Exposure Right
Keep an eye on your meter readings as it's easy to over- / underexpose the shot, losing the mood and detail you're looking for as a result. Your histogram can be a useful tool if you find it tricky to see if a shots under or overexposed. It's worth turning on your camera's highlight warning option, too so you can see if any areas of your shot are 'blinking' and as a result, you'll know you need to adjust your exposure.
10. Editing Images
Thanks to the digital age, tweaking images so they're a little darker or lighter in places is something we can all do. To add more contrast to your monochrome images make a simple S-Curve adjustment or try to adjust colours individually so you can, for example, darken the blue of the sky but make the grass slightly lighter. Another way to adjust the shadows / highlights in your shot is with the Dodge and Burn tools. The Dodge tool will lighten parts of the image while the Burn tool will darken the shot. You use them just as you do the Paintbrush tool, changing the brushes' strength, opacity and size as needed. Work slowly with these brushes as if you're too heavy handed the results can be a little too strong.
Photo by David Clapp
View The Photo Month Calendar
Check out more tips, features and articles.
Enter the Photo Month Competition
Your chance to win weekly prizes!
Visit The Ricoh Imaging website today for details on cameras such as the award-winning Pentax K-3.